Who Are Rohingya Muslims And What’s Going On In Myanmar (Burma)?

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Asia and the rest of the world have rallied against the reported genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar (Burma).

The world’s attention is glued to Asia, but not far-eastern Asia, where North Korea has been rattling the world with its nuclear tests. The United Nations says at least 123,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh in the past 11 days. This news is shifting the world’s attention from North Korea’s nuclear provocations to the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma.

The reported “massacre” of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, whom authorities in the nation characterize as illegal immigrants, has set off waves of anger and protests across Asia. Rohingyas are an ethnic minority of about 1.1 million people in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar.

Human rights groups claim Rohingya Muslims have been suffering violence since 2012, when government security forces and ultra-nationalist civilian groups launched a brutal campaign against the minority group. The situation spiraled out of control on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents reportedly attacked police posts in the country’s Rakhine state, killing 12 police officers in retaliation for the atrocities they are accused of perpetrating against the Rohingya.

Pro-government soldiers and vigilante groups responded with deadly force, burning Rohingya villages to the ground and shooting civilians, according to accounts from human rights groups.

Rising pressure in the international community

Almost 400 people have died in the latest round of unrest in Myanmar, with the international community accusing the Burmese military of committing crimes against humanity. Several countries have taken action against Myanmar. For example, Maldives suspended trade with the nation, and Turkey contributed $70 million in relief assistance to the Rohingya Muslims. However, experts believe the international community should do even more.

Sameera Khan, foreign policy analyst and human rights activist, told ValueWalk exclusively that the international community “should place diplomatic pressure on the government of Myanmar and denounce their ethnonationalism.”

Myanmar has seen the rise of Burmese ethno-nationalism since becoming independent from the United Kingdom in 1948. For decades, the United Nations and other organizations have accused Burmese authorities of consistent and systematic human rights violations.

Who are the Rohingya Muslims?

Rohingya Muslims mainly live in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, where Burmese authorities set up severe restrictions on basic human rights. The Aug. 25 attack on police posts prompted a furious response by the Myanmar military, which said it has killed at least 370 Rohingya fighters since then. Multiple accounts from human rights groups have said that civilians have been shot from pro-government helicopters and villages have been set on fire in a large-scale campaign by security forces and Buddhist vigilantes.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the militant group that claimed responsibility for the Aug. 25 attacks, has reportedly been keeping Rohingya Muslims from fleeing their villages and urging them to stay and fight against the security forces. Nonetheless, at least 123,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh since late August, the UN said on Tuesday.

Military operations against Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar are said to have intensified since last September. Human rights groups have been sharing unsettling accounts from witnesses who say that Burmese soldiers have been raping and murdering their people and setting their villages on fire. They’re also accused of burning the bodies of the Rohingya they killed to cover up the evidence, according to The Independent. Human rights activists also claim that security forces and vigilante groups have been throwing Rohingya babies into rivers and fire.

Who’s responsible for the “massacre” of Rohingya Muslims In Myanmar?

The reported atrocities of the Burmese military have plagued the image of Myanmar’s civilian leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Formerly known as a vocal defender of human rights, Mrs. Suu Kyi has struggled against military rule in Myanmar.

Even though Mrs. Suu Kyi’s control over the Burmese military has severe limitations by the country’s constitution, critics say the de facto leader of the nation has not done enough to protect Rohingya Muslims from persecution. Mrs. Suu Kyi and her government have previously said that the ethnic minority are migrants from Bangladesh and thus don’t deserve citizenship in Burma, even though their roots in modern-day Rakhine state in Myanmar can be traced back to the Eighth Century. Bangladesh has also refused to give the ethnic minority citizenship rights.

Fury in the international community

This latest time of unrest in Myanmar has attracted the international community’s attention to the existential problem of the unwanted and stateless Rohingya Muslims.

In Indonesia, hundreds of protesters have rallied for days outside the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta, demanding that the Indonesian government cut diplomatic ties with Myanmar over its apparent inhumane treatment of Rohingya Muslims. On Monday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with Mrs. Suu Kyi and Burmese army leaders to discuss the latest uptick in violence.

The Maldives reacted to the Burmese military’s reported atrocities immediately, suspending all trade activities and relations with Myanmar. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry of the Maldives demanded that the UN investigate the alleged human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

The Pakistani government said it was “deeply concerned” by the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar and demanded that Burmese authorities protect the rights of the ethnic minority. The Afghan government echoed a similar sentiment, condemning the reported “massacre” of Rohingya Muslims by Burmese security forces and urging human rights groups to investigate.

The Afghan Taliban, accused by many in the West of killing civilians in military campaigns against the Afghan government, also condemned what it referred to as “ethnic cleansing” during Eid al-Adha, the second of two major Muslim holidays celebrated worldwide each year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held phone calls with more than a dozen Muslim heads of state to discuss the Myanmar crisis. Erdogan also promised to discuss the alleged genocide of the Rohingya in Burma at this month’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

There has been no immediate sign that the furious response from the international community will stop the violence in Burma.

Video Courtesy: RT/ YouTube.

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