The Rohingya still await justice and protection of their rights five years after the Myanmar military began a sweeping campaign of massacres, rape, and arson in northern Rakhine State on August 25, 2017. More than 740,000 Rohingya fled to what are precarious, flood-prone camps in Bangladesh, while about 600,000 remain under oppressive rule in Myanmar.

Of course, no one has been held accountable for the crimes against humanity and acts of genocide committed against the Rohingya population. Concerned governments are yet to take any concrete action to hold the Myanmar military to account and eventually secure justice and safety for the Rohingya in Myanmar. What is still sorely missing is a coordinated international strategy for accountability and justice that draws on Rohingya input. Meanwhile, the refugees in Bangladesh and elsewhere should receive support to study and work freely and safely so they can build independent and self-reliant futures.

By now, we have all read their descriptions of the incidents in which soldiers systematically killed and raped villagers before torching their homes. Altogether, the security forces killed thousands and burned down nearly 400 villages. Those who escaped joined a few hundred thousand refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence and persecution.

It is important to remember also that the Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State face systematic abuses that amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty. They are confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods.

The Rohingya are effectively denied citizenship under Myanmar's 1982 Citizenship Law, rendering them stateless. The 2017 atrocities were rooted in decades of state repression, discrimination, and violence. In February 2021, the generals who had orchestrated the atrocities against the Rohingya staged a coup and detained Myanmar's elected civilian leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The military junta responded to mass demonstrations with a nationwide campaign of mass killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and indiscriminate attacks that amounted to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Since the coup, security forces have arrested an estimated 2,000 Rohingya, hundreds of them children, for "unauthorised travel." Many have been sentenced to the maximum five years in prison. Increased fighting between the Myanmar military and the ethnic Arakan Army in Rakhine has also left Rohingya caught in the middle.

For five years, the Bangladesh government has respected the international principle of non refoulement - the right of refugees not to be returned to a country where their lives or freedom would be threatened. However, Bangladesh authorities have recently intensified restrictions on livelihoods, movement, and education that make many refugees feel unwelcome and at risk.

The 2022 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya humanitarian crisis has received only a quarter of its requested US$881 million in funding. Donors including the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and Australia should increase funding to meet the massive needs of the refugee population to help Bangladesh support the Rohingya and host communities. The international response to the 2017 violence was fragmented and halting. Building conditions for the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of Rohingya refugees will require a cohesive international response to establish rights-respecting rule in Myanmar. A future Myanmar under democratic civilian rule will entail full citizenship rights for Rohingya and reparations for the atrocities.

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