Sunday 17 September, 2017 Update: The Rohingya Crisis

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Following her release from house arrest in 2010 Aung San Suu Kyi was a gold plated darling of the Western political world. Politicians from around the world journeyed to her home country of Myanmar to talk with Kyi, and of course, to be seen with her. Kyi’s name became synonymous with women’s rights, and pro-democracy movements. In April, 2016 she became the state counsellor of Myanmar, a position similar to a prime minister.

So imagine the irony when some of the same people who championed her cause in the past began accusing her of ethnic cleansing last week.

Kyi is under increasing pressure to halt the army offensive that has uprooted hundreds of thousands of Rohingya and forced them to flee across the border to Bangladesh and beyond. The Rohingya people are a minority group in Myanmar, made up of roughly 1 million men, women, and children. The majority of Rohingya are Muslims and most live in the northern Rakhine State. They have been pushing for their own nation-state for decades without success. The government has cracked down on Rohingya civilians following the start of a renewed insurgency last year.

The current crisis was sparked by attacks on police stations in northern Rakhine by Rohingya militants, which killed twelve security personnel. Myanmar responded with a military offensive that has reportedly resulted in burned out Rohingya villages and attacks on civilians. The purpose of the offensive is to drive them out of Myanmar. So far, that is what has been happening. Bangladesh is feeling the pain from a surge of refugees across its border since late August. The nation is taking steps to limit the influx of Rohingya and has placed restrictions on their ability to travel around Bangladesh. The hope of the Bangladeshi government is that the Rohingya will be permitted to return home in the near future.

Judging by events over the last week or so that does not appear as if it will happen. Myanmar has shown no signs of letting up on its efforts to drive the Rohingya out. Even with international pressure increasing, Kyi is not backing down. She will not be attending the UN General Assembly session and has blamed the global media for working to increase tensions with biased news coverage that portrays Rohingya entirely as persecuted civilians. It will be interesting to see if any resolution comes out of New York this week and whether or not Kyi will bow to international pressure and stop the military offensive.

3 comments

  1. I don’t think Kyi can call of the military as it is not within her powers. And if she did would it even work? The vast majority of Burmese support the military actions. Bangladesh is also not without fault here, they have been sending the Rohingya/Bengalies back including ones that originally lived in Bangladesh. They are really stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not so different than in the Middle East

    1. You’re right, the situation isn’t very different from the Middle East. Kyi is facing an insurgency and I personally think she’s doing what is right for her country.

      1. I agree there is an insurgency but it is not coming from the Rohingya themselves. As in home grown terrorism. I see it as being two fold, first the military in Burma have always functioned against the people and their freedom. And what they are doing now seeks to undermine Kyi and her very young governments ability to function internationally and to change their very problematic constitution. Secondly some of Burma’s neighbors like China and specifically in this case Bangladesh wish to hold Burma in a week position. The Rohingya are being used as a tool to destabilize the country. Bangladesh has pushed the Rohingya into Burma years ago and will not have them back. They limit their ability to receive international aid in the camps and have been known to treat them very poorly as to not make them welcome to stay. They are in this case much like the Palestinians who are not wanted by Egypt Jordan or Syria all Muslim nations and certainly not by Israel. The Muslim world clearly uses unwanted people to destabilize neighbors. This very clearly is the fear that the Burmese I have spoken to have. Both the Rohingya and the Burmese people are being used as pawns in a much bigger game. Kyi is clearly struggling here and how she maneuvers this challenge will determine the survivability of her fledgling government.

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