In this episode we are excited to be joined by Dan Sullivan, the senior advocate for human rights at Refugees International. With over 17 years of experience in human rights policy, focussing on areas of mass displacement like Myanmar, Dan gives usadetailed and critical appraisal of the country’s situation. Such takes in the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the continued persecution and oppression of the Rohingya people, the state of democracy following the recent election and what the international community must do to provoke meaningful change. We challenge the decision of international actors to refrain from categorising the crisis as a genocide andoffer visions of what such a move could bring.

Since Declarations covered this crisis in our first season, some 700,000 people have been forced to flee Myanmar, or Burma as it is also known. Approximately one million, the vast majority being Rohingya Muslims, are currently living in camps in Bangladesh and must face the trials of the pandemic in a foreign land and with ever-dwindling access to humanitarian support. International actors and organizations have been forced to leave the country due to the spread of coronavirus and Danfears such will have a distinctly detrimental effect. Indeed, in a report released shortly after the pandemic broke, Refugees International highlighted the threat to those living in the densely populated camps. Organizations such as Dan’s rely on their work on the ground, speaking to refugees, government officials, and humanitarian workers to formulate practical recommendations. With all organizations unable to do this now, through fear of bringing the disease to the camps, Dan estimates 80%of humanitarian-aid has gone. Coupled with the declining media coverage and international involvement in the events in Myanmar, now is as pressing a time as ever to address the ongoing crisis.

“This election was anything but free and fair” – Dan Sullivan

The recent election, so overshadowed by electoral events in the United States, furthers the need to again fix global scrutiny on the treatment of the Rohingya and the state of democracy in the country as a whole. The Union Election Commission, the national level electoral commission of Myanmar, has proved to be flawed, with international funding found to have gone to apps that labeled Rohingya Muslims as Bengali – a term used to imply they are illegal immigrants in the region. Equally, in the run-up to the election, the military declared Rakhine state, among others, as being too dangerous to vote. The majority of Rohingya people can be found within Rakhine yet, due to ongoing conflict between government forces and the Arakan army– the armed wing of the United League of Arakan (ULA) – there were excluded from the electoral process. Disenfranchising both Rohingya and Rakhine citizens appears a thinly veiled attempt to segregate and ostracise those seeking change in the politics of Myanmar. In discussion of this Dan notes:

“The real test of any democracy is how it treats its minorities”

The failings of the election exacerbate the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya. NVCs (National Verification Cards) are widely mistrusted by Rohingya Muslims. With a history of the cards being ignored or revoked, they offer no clear path to recognition of citizenship or increased liberty and freedom.Instead,they act as ameans of identifying minorities, like the Rohingya, and endangering what little freedom they enjoy.Our episode closes with discussion of what the internal community could and should be doing to promote meaningful and long-lasting change. Most prominent in this is Dan’s advocacy of the categorisation of the ongoing crisis as a genocide.He believes strongly such a move would prompt far more coverage and decisive action, forcing international actors to implement stricter sanctions. Whilst many seek to believe the narrative that democracy is moving forward, the recent election shows just why such ideas cannot be allowed to move to forefront of the discussion on Myanmar. Although the U.S. has placed targeted sanctions on military officials – including the Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing – and the ICJ is investigating the case that Myanmar is perpetrating a genocide, we must not be satisfied. Dan calls for us to place increased and sustained pressure on our governments to take meaningful action in the region. We cannot be happy with the progress thus far, nor accept this as a state of normalcy. 

Links to further information:

The work of Refugees International –

Our previous episode on the Rohingya crisis ––with-Dr-Thomas-MacManus-e15e7d

Dan Sullivan’s Twitter –

Tun Khin’s Twitter –