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Rohingya women at their shelter destroyed by Cyclone Mocha in Basara camp in Sittwe, Myanmar, May 16, 2023. © 2023 Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images

Last month, when Cyclone Mocha hit Myanmar, about 600,000 ethnic Rohingya were left trapped and exposed in its path. Hundreds were killed and hundreds of thousands of buildings damaged. This devastation and loss of life was both foreseeable and avoidable.  

In the weeks after Cyclone Mocha hit, Myanmar’s military junta blocked lifesaving humanitarian aid in Rakhine State putting thousands of lives at immediate risk. Rohingya tell us they are facing massive levels of unaddressed needs, including waterborne illnesses, hunger and malnutrition, and sheltering in tents made of debris.   

For decades, Myanmar authorities have deprived the Rohingya of their rights and freedoms, and eroded their capacity to survive. These systematic abuses amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid, persecution, and deprivation of liberty.   

The junta’s deliberate obstruction of aid is emblematic of the military’s longstanding “four cuts” strategy, designed to maintain control of an area by isolating and terrorizing the population.  

These restrictions also underscore that conditions for the safe, sustainable, and dignified return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh do not currently exist. Calling for repatriation now would mean sending refugees back to the control of a ruthless and repressive junta, setting the stage for the next devastating exodus.  

Every day the junta is violating the ASEAN five-point consensus and the UN Security Council resolution, while ignoring calls from the Human Rights Council and General Assembly. Yet it faces few repercussions for its abuses.  

The military’s atrocities against the Rohingya and post-coup abuses are intersecting crises that demand a coordinated response. The rights due Rohingya are bound up in the broader human rights situation in Myanmar – both depend on the establishment of civilian democratic rule in Myanmar, respect for the basic rights of all of Myanmar’s minorities, and accountability for the generals for their atrocity crimes.  

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