Rohingya Jailed Whilst Attempting to Travel
Aysu Amaha Öztürk
Myanmar and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
Rohingya people are Muslim minorities who are from Myanmar but denied citizenship and other fundamental rights in Myanmar. This forms the reason for their attempts to flee to nearly Muslim-majority countries such as Indonesia or Malaysia through Bangladesh. Nearly one million Rohingya refugees are in camps in Bangladesh (UN says 2022 among the deadliest years for Rohingya at sea, 2023). Last week, the United Nations stated that 2022 has been the deadliest year for the Rohingya in terms of trying to flee Myanmar (UN says 2022 is among the deadliest years for Rohingya at sea, 2023). Many boats and vessels have been missing or stranded, and death due to hunger or thirst has also been reported. Though these circumstances, many are still trying to flee Myanmar due to the ongoing atrocities committed against them by the government.
On the 6th of January, 2023, the government of Myanmar sentenced 112 Rohingya persons to between two and five years in prison for attempting to travel out of the country without ‘legal documents’ (Sajid, 2023). According to Global New The Light of Myanmar, the oldest state-run news channel, the migrants were arrested last month in the south of the country when they were discovered on a motorboat on the coast near the Bogale township (Sajid, 2023). Furthermore, it has been reported that there were many children in the group who were sent to a youth training school. All the adults have been sent to prison. Another news channel from Myanmar also mentioned that the report used the word ‘Bengalis’ to refer to the Rohingya people which is a pejorative word for the Muslim minority (Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya…, 2023). This also shows the aforementioned treatment of Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Seeking asylum is a right that should not result in people, especially vulnerable minorities, being incarcerated. Their right to liberty should be protected. The Rohingya should not be arrested and sent to jail. The Rohingya children should not be forced to go to youth schools. Moreover, Myanmar should stop their atrocities against the Rohingya so that they can continue living in their homes instead of being forced to flee their homes dangerously. Until then, the Rohingya people are protected by Article 13(2) by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Although this instrument is not binding, scholars have argued that the right of an individual to leave their country can be considered a part of a modern customary international law (Boed, 1994). Therefore, as long as their existence and lives are threatened, Rohingya people have the right to seek asylum and leave their country in pursuit of asylum.
Sources and further reading:
Boed, R. (1994). Tea: Hydration and other health benefits. Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, 5(1), 1-33.
Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya for travelling 'without documents. (2023, January 10). Mizzima. https://www.mizzima.com/article/myanmar-jails-112-rohingya-travelling-without-documents
Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya who tried to leave country. (2023, January 10). Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/10/myanmar-jails-112-rohingya-who-tried-to-leave-country
Sajid, I. (2023, January 10). Myanmar jails 112 Rohingya for entering country without legal documents. Anadolu Agency. https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/myanmar-jails-112-rohingya-for-entering-country-without-legal-documents/2784102
UN says 2022 among the deadliest years for Rohingya at sea. (2022, December 26). Aljazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/12/26/deadliest-year-for-rohingya-at-sea-with-180-presumed-dead-un