The Plight of the Ignored Rohingya
The Plight of the Ignored Rohingya: A Brief Synopsis of the Crisis facing Myanmar's Ethnic and Religious Minority
Over the past several months, news stories about the Rohingya have been popping up weekly. The Rohingya have been trying to flee oppression and persecution in Myanmar (also known as Burma), but overflowing boats and the unwillingness of countries to take in the refugees have caused another crisis in itself.
So how did this all start?
First of all, the Rohingya are defined as a primarily Muslim ethnic group. They are a minority group in Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. Unfortunately, Myanmar's government does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, saying instead, that they are immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and are ethnically Bengali. However, the Rohingya have been living in Myanmar for hundreds of years, with the term "Rohingya" first appearing in a published work in 1799.
The Rohingya have been facing persecution for some time due to their religious differences, but it has intensified in recent years. In 2010, Myanmar's military government was replaced by a democracy, ironically leading to a surge of violence against the Rohingya and other Burmese Muslims, as the new government allowed the 969 Movement (a campaign led by Monk Ashin Wirathu that calls for the boycotting of Muslim businesses by Buddhists),to operate.
Since 2010, periodic waves of religious conflicts have plagued Myanmar as many Buddhist Rakhines (what the ethnic majority of Myanmar is known as) fear Muslim "encroachment." The violence has driven thousands of Rohingya out of their homes, and many human traffickers and smugglers have capitalized on this situation by promising to safely transport Rohingya refugees to lands such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, in exchange for large sums of money. Additionally, sometimes these smugglers end up abandoning ships full of refugees on the water, leaving them to fend for themselves with little to no food or water. In the last couple of months, boats of refugees have been stranded for weeks in the Indian Ocean, with no nearby countries wanting to take them in. Indonesia and Malaysia have both said that they are not financially able to take care of all the refugees, while Bangladesh, which had been housing some Rohingya refugees in camps , has started moving some out due to overcrowding.
The government of Myanmar has yet to condemn and take action to stop the atrocities against the Rohingya. Though many governments, humanitarian aid and non-governmental organizations have called for an end to the violence, the Myanmar's government has instead deflected any responsibilities related to the crisis, making the future of the Rohingya uncertain.