Rohingya Crisis: What You Need to Know


The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, have been called one of the “world’s most persecuted minorities.” Who are they? What is the current “Rohingya crisis”? (Nat Geo News)

Where is Myanmar? Where are the Rohingya fleeing? Use today’s MapMaker Interactive map to help put the crisis in context.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit Text Set, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

This photo of Rohingya men and boys was taken in 2014, before the current crisis.
Photograph by United to End Genocide, courtesy Flickr. CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Who are the Rohingya?
    • The Rohingya, also called the Arak or Arkanese, are an ethnic group from Rakhine, a state in western Myanmar on the border with Bangladesh. Take a look at our 1-Page Map of Myanmar here.
      • Rohingya communities of more than 25,000 are also found in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Malaysia.
    • The Rohingya are a majority Muslim population, but are more defined by shared culture, language, and history than religion. Many Rohingya are Hindu.


Map by Al Jazeera. CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • The Rohingya have been called one of the “world’s most persecuted minorities.” Why?
    • The Rohingya are essentially “stateless,” as they are not citizens. They are not one of Myanmar’s eight official “national races” or 135 official ethnic groups. Considered “resident foreigners,” the 1.1 million Rohingyans are not citizens of Myanmar and becoming naturalized citizens is an onerous process involving “conclusive evidence” of Burmese ancestry dating earlier than 1823 (the time of British occupation) or application for citizenship prior to 1948 (independence), in addition to being able to speak one of Myanmar’s national languages (Rohingya is not one) and being “of good character and sound mind.”
    • Freedom of movement is restricted. Strict travel permits are required for Rohingyas to travel in Rakhine, other parts of Myanmar, and abroad.
    • Access to education and health care is limited. Because they are not citizens, Rohingya do not have access to state secondary schools or many state-run hospitals.
    • Access to employment is limited. Because they are not citizens, Rohingya cannot hold government jobs, such as teaching. They also cannot hold political office, which denies them representation in local government.
    • Property may be confiscated. Rohingya and other working-class communities are often extorted to provide food to Myanmar’s huge military presence. Recently, entire Rohingya villages have been burned.
    • Rohingya are vulnerable to forced labor. According to Human Rights Watch, “The compulsory, unpaid labor includes work in state-run, profit-making industries and construction of ‘model villages’ for non-Muslim migrants in [Rakhine].”


  • How does the government of Myanmar defend treatment of the Rohingya?
    • Official reports find no evidence of systemic discrimination or persecution.
    • The government has not allowed outside organizations (such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) to conduct independent investigations into the crisis.
    • The military claims the Rohingya burned their own villages in order to gain widespread support.
    • Critics of the Rohingya say communities in Rakhine have ties to terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia.



Where are Rohinga refugees seeking asylum?




Nat Geo: Myanmar’s Rohingya Are in Crisis—What You Need to Know article

Al Jazeera: Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya? article

Al Jazeera: Rohingya Crisis Explained in Maps maps

Nat Geo: Where are Rohingyan Refugees? map

Nat Geo: Without a Home, and Without Hope article

Nat Geo: Myanmar map

Human Rights Watch: Discrimination in Arakan article

Nat Geo: What is a refugee? reference

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