Myanmar Jails Rohingya Children for Traveling Without Documents

Today the 10 of Jan 2023, a Burmese court has issued a ruling that has come as a shock to many. The court sentenced 12 girls and boys, five of whom were under 13 years of age, from the Rohingya minority to prison sentences ranging between two and three years for traveling without documents.

The 112 Rohingya detained in December in the southeastern region of Bogale, near the Irrawaddy River delta in the Andaman Sea, were amongst those condemned by the court on the 8th of January. The minors under the age of 13 are to serve two-year prison terms, whereas the adults in the group -7 girls and boys between the ages of thirteen and eighteen- have their sentence extended to three years.

The Global New Light of Myanmar, a newspaper that is tightly regulated by the military since the coup d’├ętat in February of 2021, reported that the adults- 53 men and 47 women- had their sentence extended to five years in prison on the 6th of January. The sentences are being carried out despite the fact that the Burmese authority does not recognize the citizenship of the Rohingya people, regarding them as Bengali immigrants and denying them access to freedom of movement, housing, health and education.

The situation deteriorated in August of 2017, when the Burmese army launched a military campaign in Northern Rakhine (Arakan) state that led to the displacement of more than 720,000 refugees to neighboring Bangladesh. Most of them have remained in the world’s largest refugee camp complex, surviving under extremely difficult circumstances.

This recent episode is a reminder of the brutal acts of violence and violations of human rights endured by the Rohingya people, especially the minors. Their stories are hauntingly similar. They have all seen their home burnt, their family murdered, their mothers raped and robbed by Myanmar forces.

These acts of violence must be stopped, and the survivors must be given the justice they seek. Various organisations, such as Save the Children, are helping refugees in Bangladesh, but much still needs to be done to improve the situation of these vulnerable children.

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