Eth­nic cleans­ing con­tin­ues in Myan­mar

The McGill Daily - - International News -

Roughly 150,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled Myan­mar over the past two weeks, as state se­cu­rity forces con­tinue to carry out eth­nic cleans­ing op­er­a­tions in the coun­try’s Rakhine province. This wave of vi­o­lence be­gan Au­gust 25 af­ter an at­tack by Ro­hingya mil­i­tants against gov­ern­ment forces, and is nom­i­nal ly aimed at stamp­ing out ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity in the re­gion. How­ever, it ap­pears that civil­ians are be­ing tar­geted on a mas­sive scale. The in­ter­na­tional press has largely been barred from the re­gion, but the refugees who con­tinue to pour into neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh have re­ported mas­sacres and the de­struc­tion of en­tire vil­lages. While Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment has claimed that only 400 peo­ple have been killed in Rakhine province so far, the U.N. es­ti­mates the ac­tual death toll to be at leas t 1000.

For decades, the R ohingya have faced in­tense sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion in the Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar, where they are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship and ac­cess to many ba­sic ameni­ties. They are widely known as “the world’ s most per­se­cuted mi­nor­ity .” The cur­rent eth­nic cleans­ing cam­paign is not with­out prece­dent; a year ago, over 80,000 Ro­hingya fled the coun­try af­ter nine po­lice of­fi­cers w ere killed by al­leged Mus­lim mil­i­tants, prompt­ing an­other vi­o­lent crack­down in the Rakhine province.

While not un­prece­dented, this lat­est out­break of vi­o­lence seems to be draw­ing sig­nif­i­cantly more crit­i­cism from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity than pre­vi­ous con­flicts. In par­tic­u­lar, Aung San Suu Kyi, the coun­try’s de facto leader, has been sharply crit­i­cized for her re­fusal to con­demn the vi­o­lence and take steps to end the per­se­cu­tion of the Ro­hingya. In re­cent weeks, many around the world have ar­gued that her No­bel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991 for up­hold­ing non- vi­o­lence and hu­man rights, should be re­voked.

Bangladesh, the big­gest coun­try of ori­gin for refugees seek­ing safety in Europe, has strug­gled with the re­cent wave of refugees from Myan­mar. In some re­gions, bor­der con­trols have been tight­ened, leav­ing many Ro­hingya stranded with nowhere to run, while those who make it into the coun­try face des­per­ately over­crowded refugee camps. On Septem­ber 6, the Bangladesh i gov­ern­ment ac­cused Myan­mar of lay­ing land mines along the bor­der be­tween the two coun­tries, fur­ther ex­ac­er­bat­ing the plight of the Ro­hingya. Of­fi­cials from Myan­mar have de­nied th­ese al­le­ga­tions, though sev­eral in­juries from land­mines have been re­ported in re­cent days.

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