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Stateless Rohingya in Sittwe IDP Camps
Rohingya refugees seek shelter from the monsoon rains inside a camp for internally displaced persons outside Sittwe, in Burma's Rakhine state, on July 17, 2015 Asanka Brendon Ratnayake—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Burma's Treatment of the Rohingya Is Not Genocide, Says U.S.

Mar 22, 2016

The Rohingya Muslim minority in western Burma face torture, unlawful detention and restrictions on their movement, among other abuses, the U.S. State Department says, but American officials believe the government's treatment of the group does not constitute genocide.

The department reported to Congress last week after it was asked to look into allegations that an effort was underway to wipe out the ethnic group.

"While it’s without question that [the Rohingya] continue to face persecution, we did not determine that it was on the level of genocide," State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

More than 1 million people identifying themselves as Rohingya live in Rakhine state, which sits on the Bay of Bengal. They have faced discrimination for decades by Burmese governments who insisted they are interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh, and not entitled to citizenship, despite many tracing their roots in the region back generations.

"Members of the Rohingya community in particular reportedly face abuses by the Government of Burma, including those involving torture, unlawful arrest and detention, restricted movement, restrictions on religious practice, and discrimination in employment and access to social services," said the State Department's Atrocities Prevention Report.

The Rohingya, Burma's Forgotten Muslims by James Nachtwey

Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
More than 140,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have been forced to live in camps, where disease and despair have taken root. Abdul Kadir, 65, who has a severe stomach ailment and malnutrition, is cared for by his wife in one of the camps.James Nachtwey for TIME
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14. Thek Kay Pyin, 7, an IDP. His father is So Zokorice (small man in white tank top). He was falsely accused of murder and spent 1and 1/2 years in Sittwe Jail, beaten continuously for 8 months before being released without charges against him.Funeral of Ziada Begum, 30, who died of stomach diseasee. Left behind 5 children with no husband.Sham Shi Dar Begum, 18. TB and AIDS. Father died from AIDS. MOther Noor Johan, 50. Has seven daughters, all living in two small rooms in camp.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14. Thek Kay Pyin, 7, an IDP. His father is So Zokorice (small man in white tank top). He was falsely accused of murder and spent 1and 1/2 years in Sittwe Jail, beaten continuously for 8 months before being released without charges against him.Funeral of Ziada Begum, 30, who died of stomach diseasee. Left behind 5 children with no husband.Sham Shi Dar Begum, 18. TB and AIDS. Father died from AIDS. MOther Noor Johan, 50. Has seven daughters, all living in two small rooms in camp.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14.Funerals. First a 16 year old girl who drank poison. Sevcond a woman who died from stomach disease.A blind beggar on railway tracks between two IDP camps.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14. Thek Kay Pyin, 7, an IDP. His father is So Zokorice (small man in white tank top). He was falsely accused of murder and spent 1and 1/2 years in Sittwe Jail, beaten continuously for 8 months before being released without charges against him.Funeral of Ziada Begum, 30, who died of stomach diseasee. Left behind 5 children with no husband.Sham Shi Dar Begum, 18. TB and AIDS. Father died from AIDS. MOther Noor Johan, 50. Has seven daughters, all living in two small rooms in camp.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14. Thek Kay Pyin, 7, an IDP. His father is So Zokorice (small man in white tank top). He was falsely accused of murder and spent 1and 1/2 years in Sittwe Jail, beaten continuously for 8 months before being released without charges against him.Funeral of Ziada Begum, 30, who died of stomach diseasee. Left behind 5 children with no husband.Sham Shi Dar Begum, 18. TB and AIDS. Father died from AIDS. MOther Noor Johan, 50. Has seven daughters, all living in two small rooms in camp.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14.Funerals. First a 16 year old girl who drank poison. Sevcond a woman who died from stomach disease.A blind beggar on railway tracks between two IDP camps.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Baw Du Ba 2 Camp. Mustawba Khatu, 50 - hepatitis, enlarged liverMa Noor Ul Nisa, 3 1/2 - pneumonia, feverNoor Lang Sering, 25 - TB (girl in foreground, daughter)Sham Shi Dar Begum, 18 - TB, HIV+ (husband died from AIDS) Mother on right, Noor Jahan, 50.MSF had dealt effectively with TYb and HIV. Since the NGO was ejected, people are at risk from lack of medication and a systematic approach to administration of the drugs.In Thek Kay Pyin Pharmacy waiting for treatment from the owner of the pharmacy, who is not a doctor or a pharmacist. Ru Kuma, 10 - worms in stomach. Mother, Bi Bi, 30.Mustawba Khatu - orange blouse, daughter in foregroundNoor Ul Nisa - held by mother, father to leftMa Noor Lang Sering - mother in white scarf, red bag on wall.Baw Du Ba 2 Camp mosque - Friday prayers.Aid goods distributed by UNHCR being sold in market after UNHCR distribution.Fishing boats at low tide.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Fishing boatsDapaing IDP Camp:Thein Maung, 46 - HIV+ and AIDS - son, Athassan Ullah, 4MSF had dealt effectively with TB and HIV. Since the NGO was ejected, people are at risk from lack of medication and a systematic approach to administration of the drugs.Ohn Daw Gee, 5Shaw Bi Ullah, 45 - diarrhea, motorbikeKobir Ahmed, 70 - malnutrition due to stomach troubles - twin grandsons Jamal Hussein, Anwar Hussein, 3 - wormsDapaing Hospital:Su Ra Khatu, 70 - fever, stomach ailmentHar Zar Ra Khatu, 70 - suspected TBAbdul Hussein, 65 - suspected TB, paralysis in one legAbdul Salam, 45 - diabetes - wife Shanisida Begum, 22 - baby Noor Harbiba, 3 monthsLatrines at Baw Du Pha 2 Camp.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care. Brick kilns operated by Rohingya IDP's. Workers are IDP's. Adults are paid 2,000 kyat per day for about 10m hours of work. Children are paid 1,000 kyat per day. Children in photos are from age 6 to 8 and the oldest is 14.Funerals. First a 16 year old girl who drank poison. Sevcond a woman who died from stomach disease.A blind beggar on railway tracks between two IDP camps.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
Rohingye people, a Muslim population, living in Rakhine State on the northwest coast of Burma have been restricted to their villages and placed in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps by the Burmese government. They have been the victims of persecution and communal violence by numbers of the Buddhist majority in Rakhine. International NGO's such as MSF have been expelled by the government, leading to a soaring crisis in health care.Fishing boatsDapaing IDP Camp:Thein Maung, 46 - HIV+ and AIDS - son, Athassan Ullah, 4MSF had dealt effectively with TB and HIV. Since the NGO was ejected, people are at risk from lack of medication and a systematic approach to administration of the drugs.Ohn Daw Gee, 5Shaw Bi Ullah, 45 - diarrhea, motorbikeKobir Ahmed, 70 - malnutrition due to stomach troubles - twin grandsons Jamal Hussein, Anwar Hussein, 3 - wormsDapaing Hospital:Su Ra Khatu, 70 - fever, stomach ailmentHar Zar Ra Khatu, 70 - suspected TBAbdul Hussein, 65 - suspected TB, paralysis in one legAbdul Salam, 45 - diabetes - wife Shanisida Begum, 22 - baby Noor Harbiba, 3 monthsLatrines at Baw Du Pha 2 Camp.Photograph by James Nachtwey.
More than 140,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have been forced to live in camps, where disease and despair have taken root
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James Nachtwey for TIME
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The state erupted in violence just as Burma (officially known as Myanmar) was beginning a transition from military dictatorship. "We assessed that the 2012 intercommunal violence targeted against the Rohingya civilian population resulted in approximately 200 deaths and over 140,000 displaced," the report said. Tens of thousands of people have since taken to often unseaworthy boats to escape the country.

It remains unclear whether a new democratically elected administration set to take power April 1 will attempt to address the treatment of the Rohingya, who, as the State Department noted, receive "little public support" in majority-Buddhist Burma.

"We remain concerned about current acts that constitute persecution of and discrimination against members of the Rohingya population in Burma," the report concluded.

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