Humanitarian Crisis In Myanmar

It’s hard to think in today’s modern times that in a little-talked about corner of the world called Myanmar (or sometimes, Burma), ethnic cleansing might be occurring. However, Yanghee Lee, the country’s special rapporteur for the U.N., thinks it very likely that this is exactly what’s going on. A Muslim minority in a Buddhist country, the Rohingya people used to be a recognized race in Myanmar. However, in the 1980s they were stripped of their citizenship and have been persecuted ever since, by private citizens and the military junta that ran the government.

Things were supposed to get better when Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi came to power about a year ago and began some tentative steps towards democracy. If anything, unfortunately, the fear mongering and even murders have gotten worse. In supposed retaliation for attacks at the borders of Myanmar allegedly committed by Rohingya men, violence, rape, killings, and torture of Rohingya men, women, and children has been widely reported and more than 75,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. When she finally spoke on the subject, Aung San Suu Kyi surprised the world by chastising the U.N. for breeding dissent and said, despite never having visited the Rohingya neighborhoods, that she didn’t think ethnic cleansing was happening.

Her reputation is suffering for it. 13 other Nobel laureates have condemned her denials, as well as her government’s refusal to allow an outside investigation or even outside journalists into the country. And the Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh are almost no better off, as that country’s government feels the financial burden of their overflowing refugee camps. They have almost no access to healthcare, clean water, or even secure shelters. They are too poor to move on, and unless the international community steps up to help, estimates of over a 100,000 people may just perish in this limbo between two hostile countries.