Troubles in Myanmar

Rafiq Habib - 1A Management
Posted on: September 23, 2017

On 22 September 2017, the International Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal announced that it had found the Myanmar government guilty of genocide and war crimes against the Rohingya people and other Muslim minorities in the country. The Italy-based organization, founded to investigate and denounce crimes committed by military regimes around the world, made the declaration following 5 days of hearings, expert testimonies, and first-hand accounts of victims of the current crisis. This is a monumental announcement, as the Myanmar military has restricted entry to conflict areas, making it difficult for world organizations to obtain verified information regarding the current crisis. This declaration has been a long time coming, and finally puts a name to a long-existing problem that Myanmar has been grappling with.
The Rohingya are an ethnic minority that live in many countries in Southeast Asia. Their population is most concentrated in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, next to the country’s coast and its border with Bangladesh. They are mostly Muslim, and numbered approximately 1,000,000 before this summer’s max exodus. They are a stateless people, who have long been deemed by the United Nations to be the most persecuted people in the world. Under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law they are denied citizenship, and consequently have restricted access to education, work, travel, freedom of religion, and health services. The Rohingya are not allowed to vote, run for office, or practice medicine or law. This has led to considerable tension between the Rohingya and the rest of the country. Added to this is the institutional racism they face from
Myanmar’s Buddhist majority population.
Over the last decades, there have been flare-ups of conflict between the Rohingya and the military running the country. Small armed insurgent groups, such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, have attacked police outposts and military bases. The last such attack, in August of this year, is seen as the most recent catalyst for the current humanitarian crisis and armed conflict. In response to the August attack, the military has been accused of indiscriminately burning down entire villages and slaughtering communities in the Rakhine state. 400,000 Rohingya have fled for their lives, and are now in refugee camps at the Bangladesh border. There were hopes that Myanmar’s first democratically elected government, led by the former Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, may have been able to avoid or end this crisis. That hope is all but gone, as the government has refused to formally acknowledge the attacks and destruction. At the same time, there are reports of other ethnic groups and citizens in the regions bordering the conflict zones actively working to stop the flow of aid into the Rakhine province. As the international community mounts pressure on the country, we have yet
to see any way this could be resolved in the immediate future. This is a conflict that is similar to other tragedies, such as the Rwandan Genocide. For now, all we can do is hope that somehow it ends differently.