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7 Facts about the Rohingya GenocideThe Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is not just persecution, but a genocide. According to an April 2018 Al Jazeera feature article, Myanmar has taken part in “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya people by not recognizing the group as people and stripping away basic human rights such as food, shelter and clothing. There is also extreme military violence to eradicate the Rohingya, which has led to seeking refuge in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

7 Facts About the Rohingya Genocide

  1. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for centuries. They speak Ruaingga, which is distinct to other Myanmar languages, and they are primarily Muslims. According to Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, evidence of a 1799 document shows that the Rohingya have resided in Myanmar since the 18th century and possibly earlier, considering the earliest records of Muslims in Myanmar are from the 12th century. Today, there are 1.1 million Rohingya living in Buddhist Myanmar.
  2. The Rohingya have had no state identity since 1982. The British rule (1824-1948) considered Myanmar as a province of India, and there was a high volume of Indian and Bangladeshi migration of laborers to Myanmar, which was considered an internal migration. After independence from the British, the Myanmar government recognized the migration as illegal. According to a 2015 report from the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, The Union Citizenship Act was passed in 1948 following independence, and the Rohingya were not included. A 1962 military coup required citizens to obtain national registration cards, and the Rohingya were only given foreign identity cards, which limited jobs and educational opportunities. In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed, which did not recognize the Rohingya as one of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups.
  3. Religious violence plays a large role in the tension between the Rohingya and the Myanmar government. Since 1982, the Rohingya have been persecuted and victims of violence. The Rohingya make up 2 percent of Buddhist Myanmar’s population but represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar. Often overlooked, religious violence has been key in the tension between the Rohingya and the military. In 2012, Muslim men had allegedly raped a Buddhist woman, which created massive religious violence against the Rohingya, forcing about 140,000 into camps for internally displaced people. According to CNN, from August to September 2017 alone, 6,700 Rohingya were killed by the Myanmar government while 2,700 died from disease and malnutrition.
  4. The majority of the Rohingya live in the Rakhine state, one of the poorest states in Myanmar, and it is illegal for the Rohingya to leave. In addition, 362 villages have been destroyed by the military. Rakhine is filled with “ghetto-like camps” and lacks access to education, healthcare, services, homes, water, etc., stripping the people of basic human needs.
  5. Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and Burmese leader, has kept quiet on the genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi has neither criticized nor praised the Myanmar government for the genocide and does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group. The Myanmar military claims it “maintains peace and stability,” although the U.N. states that the Myanmar military has committed crimes against humanity. Aung San Suu Kyi and her government, in fact, recognize the Rohingya as terrorists, in particular to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
  6. The U.N. states that the Rohingya genocide is the “world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.” UNICEF estimates 687,000 have sought refuge dangerously by boat, primarily in neighboring Bangladesh, and over half of them are child refugees. However, Bangladesh has presented resistance to the refugees, because a poor, densely populated country such as Bangladesh will be unable to sustain them. In August 2017, the U.N estimated that there are at least 420,000 Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Additionally, there are around 120,000 internally displaced Rohingya. An estimated half a million Rohingya are still in Myanmar.
  7. International aid has provided 700,000 Rohingya with food, and aid is imperative to save the ethnic group. International help has greatly impacted the Rohingya community. In addition to food, countries, such as Pakistan and India, have helped with providing refugee camps for the Rohingya. Almost 100,000 people have been treated for malnutrition. By January 2018, 315,000 children have been vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The U.K. has provided 59 million euros for those fleeing Myanmar, and the U.N. Security Council has appealed to Myanmar to stop the violence against the Rohingya.

The Rohingya genocide is described as “the world’s most persecuted minority.” Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity with ongoing violence, refugees, disease, malnutrition, poverty, etc. The Rohingya genocide must be seen through a humanitarian and moral lens to put an end to the atrocities being committed.

– Areina Ismail
Photo: Flickr

Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

During the past month, Bangladesh and the world have watched in horror as 400,000 refugees have crossed the border from Myanmar in the wake of an increase in military crackdowns among Muslim Rohingya villages. Many have lost family members in the violence and all have lost their homes. In the wake of the catastrophic events that have unfolded, Bangladesh has been forced to absorb a majority of the shock as ad hoc camps have been built along the borders. With 31.5% of its population already living below the national poverty line, aiding the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh may prove difficult for the Bangladeshi government.

Myanmar has made international headlines over the past month as images surfaced of entire villages being burned and destroyed. Beginning in August of this year, Rohingya militants executed a series of attacks in Rakhine State, where a majority of Rohingyas reside. The Rohingya people are known to be one of the most persecuted communities in the world. They suffer from systematic discrimination by both the government and fellow citizens because they are seen as illegal.

The government of Myanmar responded to the attacks with what is considered by U.N. officials to be “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Thus far, the operation has killed more than 1,000 and forced over 400,000 from their homes.

While Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said last week in a televised broadcast that the country was ready to welcome back the refugees, there has been skepticism about how welcoming the country will actually be, considering its history of Rohingya mistreatment. Furthermore, she stated that the Rohingya refugees would be allowed back in via a “verification” process. It remains to be seen what that verification process would entail.

Considering the uncertain future for the Rohingya refugees, organizations and countries have already stepped up to not only help the refugees but also the country of Bangladesh, particularly since the economic burden of hosting 400,000 refugees has been great. While Bangladesh has been focusing on its own impoverished citizens, the U.N. has estimated that nearly $200 million will be needed to aid the Rohingya refugees for a period of just six months. Bangladesh has urged the international community to put pressure on Myanmar to halt the influx of refugees, and it has seemed to help.

The U.N. has reported a drop in Rohingya refugee arrivals to Bangladesh since the end of September. While the International Organization for Migration claims that this is “too soon to say that the influx is over,” it is still a small victory for both Bangladesh and the international community. Likewise, Bangladesh has received significant aid from surrounding countries, including 53 tons of relief materials from India. Those materials included rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, ready to eat noodles, biscuits and mosquito nets. Additionally, this week, the U.S. agreed to give $32 million in humanitarian aid in the form of food, medical care, water, sanitation and shelter. This comes at a crucial time, as the Bangladeshi government has agreed to build 14,000 temporary homes. This aid will go a long way to support the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh while their future in Myanmar is still unclear.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Prioritizing Education in Myanmar Moving Forward
The spring of 2016 has brought exciting changes for the citizens of Myanmar. Although Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally ineligible to run for president, due the fact that her sons are of British nationality, she and her supporters have still found a way to impact the education system in the country.

A close friend and aid of Suu Kyi, Htin Kyaw, was elected into office. President Kyaw has given Suu Kyi a place in the cabinet, and she will oversee foreign affairs, as well as the reformation of education in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s new branch into democracy, breaking away from the debilitating rule of a military regime which abolished the once prominent higher education system, brings hope for proper education back to the people of Myanmar.

Primary education in Myanmar is mandatory and free to the public. However, for decades the education sector has been neglected, and it shows. The rule of a military regime, which lasted nearly half of a century, discouraged education amongst Myanmar’s citizens and invested little money or resources in the education system.

The constant conflict and poverty in Myanmar which ensued disrupted students from being able to attend school. The current students and graduates of Myanmar’s public education system have not been properly prepared.

Deepak Neopane, founder of City College Yangon, comments that the economy in Myanmar has recently rebounded, but the those entering into the workforce are unequipped with basic thinking skills and much of this influx of opportunity is going to waste.

With the National League for Democracy (NLD) at reigns of the government, a plan is in place to mend and improve education in Myanmar within the next five years. Beginning in the 2017/18 academic year, the grade structure will be reconfigured and increased to follow a 13-year format.

The goal for the curriculum moving forward is to expand and enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills within the pupils. Though the budget is yet to be finalized, it is likely that following the last year’s investments in the education system that more significant increases are to be made.

The Myanmar education sector has been receiving grants from several humanitarian organizations including UNICEF, the British Council and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, to ensure the prosperity of education for the children in Myanmar moving forward.

Undoubtedly, the government’s agenda to revitalize education in Myanmar is promising. However, they do not deny that there will be hurdles to overcome. The Myanmar government has not neglected to see that every facet of the current education system will need updates and revision.

The plan includes re-training teachers to bring them all up to the modern regional level of teaching and reconfiguring existing schools to situate smaller class sizes, which will improve teacher to student ratios. The end-goal is to have education in Myanmar completely modernized and fully up to standard with regional accreditation by 2030.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

myanmar
Two more Muslims have been killed by the Buddhist mobs rampaging through the streets of Myanmar’s second largest city. Muslims make up only four percent of the predominantly Buddhist nation, and they often experience hatred and attacks that displace their communities.

Since 2012, over 140,000 Muslims have become homeless due to the violence inflicted upon them by Buddhist extremists. In order to grapple with these events, the Myanmar government imposed a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew beginning the day after the attacks that left two dead. The Mandalay region chief minister Ye Myint said four people were arrested in response to the deaths, showing they will not allow for this violence to continue.

Myanmar faces intense criticism for their lack of attention to the violence, leading National League for Democracy leader and famed humanitarian, Aung San Suu Kyi, to speak out. She took to Radio Free Asia to share her thoughts. “Unless the authorities seriously maintain the rule of law, violence will grow,” she said. Suu Kyi believes that social media hype has intensified the criticism and instability felt throughout Myanmar. She is not the only person in power to share those beliefs; Mandalay police chief Colonel Za Win Aungagreed is in agreement with her sentiments.

What concerns the international crowd is that Mandalay rarely experiences religious violence, this attack is the first sectarian violence in years. At one point in time, Mandalay represented a point of unity between Muslims and Buddhists where peace prospered and fear was rare.

The president is not taking these attacks lightly. In response to the attacks, President Thein Sein has formed a religious-affairs advisory group that is headed by a former religious affairs minister. This action demonstrates the dissent shown by the government toward the acts committed by the Buddhist extremists.

This was not always the case, however, considering the Religious Conversion Law. This law serves as a reminder of the intolerance for Muslims in the majority Buddhist population. In January of 2014, Buddhist monks murdered 48 Rohingya Muslims as revenge for the death of a Buddhist police officer. The brutality seen in Myanmar threatens its international strength as foreign aid looks closely at the religious intolerance taking place.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Big Story, IBN, Liberty Voice, Wall Street Journal
Photo: The New York Times

mynamar monkeys
Myanmar makes strides towards reclaiming the title of being the primary source of rice exports, so named the “Asian Rice Bowl,” by doubling its rice production and export.

In fact, Myanmar aims to ship 2.5 million metric tons of rice between 2014-2015 with a targeted increase of 4.8 million tons between the years 2019-2020. In comparison, Myanmar shipped approximately 690,000 tons last year, ranking 9th in the world.

Among Myanmar’s competitors are its neighboring countries: Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In its favor, Myanmar holds vast arable land, a large water supply and labor force, as well as low production costs.

Myanmar’s primary beneficiaries include Russia, as well as a number of other European and African countries. Half of Myanmar’s rice shipment goes towards its largest shipper: China.

However, a key hindrance to Myanmar’s growth concerns the remnants of its past military regime. Myanmar was the largest exporter of rice between 1961-1963.

More importantly, Myanmar’s prime deterrent in reestablishing itself as a large rice exporter is its infrastructure. With almost five decades run by a military junta, Myanmar has since seen little development in mechanization, basic electricity, telephone networks, and facilities such as governmental buildings are severely lacking in computers. From processing and shipment to transport, Myanmar is also lacking in the quality of its ports.

As the nation shrugs off 49 years of dictatorship rule, Myanmar is ready to show the world, particularly foreign investors, that the rules will change. In 2010, pro-democracy and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was released. Since then, many more political prisoners have been released. Political parties formed and participated in parliamentary elections in 2012 and in the same year, privately owned newspapers were allowed into the country.

Results have come about. Previous economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union have been lifted. The Asian Development Bank, in a bid to jump start the fledgling regime’s economic and social institutions, granted loans to Myanmar. Furthermore, Myanmar recently regained its position in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Despite a history of human rights abuses and ethnic and religious conflicts occurring, Myanmar is implementing necessary changes, starting with rice.

In regards to its citizens, Myanmar’s working sector is heavily tied to the rice industry in which an estimated 70% of the population partakes. Additionally, 13% of Myanmar’s gross domestic product is in the rice industry.

In order to truly be the Asian Rice Bowl, Myanmar must continue to cultivate and foster its existing industry towards creating a surplus of opportunity for its citizens.

Miles Abadilla

Sources: BBC: Increase in Rice Exports, BBC: Reforms in Burma, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters: Analysis, Thomson Reuters: ASEAN Chair
Photo: Giphy.com