Myanmar’s Rohingya issue

This one is more complex than one is led to believe. About 300,000 Rohingya (Muslims mostly) have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh and India. But what is actually going on?

For some corporate media it is ‘ethnic cleansing’, providing stories that retell what journalists have been told by Rohingya individuals – of villages destroyed and people forced to flee. For Modi and the Indian government, the Myanmar government’s account is correct: terrorists are causing distinct problems and the military is responding. India’s geopolitical concerns obviously play a role here. But perhaps the most balanced assessment comes from Chinese sources (here, here and here).

The immediate background: on 25 August, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched attacks on 30 police posts in Rakhine state in the northwest. The military responded with force, seeking to deal with terrorist activity. Hundreds of thousands have since fled the war zone.

The longer background: economic backwardness among the Rohingya, cultural and religious (Buddhist-Muslim) tensions, denial to Rohingya of citizenship, extremist Muslim activities.

Given long Chinese experiences with such issues, the articles I mentioned tend to take a longer view. They point out the need for both short-term and long-term policies that will deal with the immediate problems but not forget the deeper issues that need to be addressed. From a Chinese perspective, the fundamental human right is the one to economic wellbeing, with the others (civic, political and religious) following.


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