He was a member of the Rohingya student union in college, taught at a public high school and even won a parliamentary seat in Myanmar’s thwarted elections in 1990. But according to the government of Myanmar, U Kyaw Min’s fellow Rohingya do not exist.
A long-persecuted Muslim minority concentrated in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, the Rohingya have been deemed dangerous interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh. Today, they are mostly stateless, their very identity denied by the Buddhist-majority Myanmar state.
“There is no such thing as Rohingya,” said U Kyaw San Hla, an officer in Rakhine’s state security ministry. “It is fake news.”
Such denials bewilder Mr. Kyaw Min. He has lived in Myanmar all of his 72 years, and the history of the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group in Myanmar stretches back for generations before. Now, human rights watchdogs warn that much of the evidence of the Rohingya’s history in Myanmar is in danger of being eradicated by a military campaign the United States has declared to be ethnic cleansing.