Off late, Myanmar has attracted the attention of the world at large due to the plight of the Rohingyas. They have been subjected to continuous torture, and are now being driven out of the country by the Myanmar government.
Though the military junta was dissolved in Myanmar in 2011, and the country now has its first democratically elected president, under the aegis of Mrs. Aung-Sun-Suu-Kyi, their democratic leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the military still holds considerable influence in its political affairs.
The Rakhine district, where the Rohingyas are living for centuries, is mainly comprised of ethnic Buddhist Rahines and Muslim Rohingyas. Myanmar is a country where majority of the population, approximately 88%, are Buddhists. Hence, there is a rising consensus to pressurize the military and the government to drive the Rohingyas out of the country.
There is a long history of ethnic conflict between the Buddhists and the Muslims in Myanmar. However, the recent crisis has its roots in the 2012 Rakhine State Riots. Triggered by the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim youths, it resulted in widespread violence. The riots went on for days, leading to the death of more than 100 Muslims and Buddhists, almost a lakh people displaced and destruction of more than 2500 houses. Since then, lakhs of Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar and taken shelter in Chittagong, Bangladesh. This has also strained the relationship between Myanmar and Bangladesh ever since.
The United Nations describes the Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minorities till date.
The problem first started during the Japanese invasion of Burma during World War II. The Rohingya minority stayed loyal to the British while the Buddhist population supported Japan.
When Burma became independent from British rule in 1948, animosity between the communities continued. The situation deteriorated after the military coup by General Ne Win in 1962.
The General, in order to establish socialism in Burma with a communist manifesto, blamed the Rohingyas for the ethnic conflicts. He declared that the Buddhists were the real nationalists and subsequently stripped the Rohingyas of citizenship and waged violence against them.
The current crisis of 2016-17 was triggered when the Myanmar military forces and extremist Buddhists started a major crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State in response to attacks on border police camps by unidentified insurgents.
According to the United Nations, in the last few weeks, around 3,00,000 Rohingyas have migrated to Bangladesh. The only ray of hope is the support from Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh, for the Rohingya cause. Although, Hasina’s government at the same time is also making an appeal to the Myanmar government to take the Rohingyas back.
Awareness about the conflict and the resulting refugee crisis has led to global condemnation of the way the Myanmar government is handling the situation. It has pressurized the once beacon of hope and peace, Mrs. Aung-Sun-Suu-Kyi, to stop ignoring the issue anymore.