Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon) is the largest city in Myanmar (Burma). Over 2,000 locals have flooded the streets in support of the Army’s recent actions against the Rohingya people in the western areas of the country. Many are Buddhist nationalists and some are even Buddhist monks. They have expressed a desire to strengthen the country’s military in order to promote sovereignty and security. Many worry that these “illegal intruders” are threatening central Burma’s way of life.

This comes after intense international criticism on the Burmese government for their methods of handling the current crisis, which has driven 600,000 Rohingya from their homes and into the neighboring country of Bangladesh. There, they live in poor conditions in massive refugee camps. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under particularly harsh criticism, as she has long been lauded as a hero of the people of Burma, and now that she is the de facto leader many have found her silence regarding this new crisis troubling.

The Rohingya have lived in Burma since before the military junta took control of the country in 1962, and the government has often been accused of massive human rights violations to the Muslim people in Rakhine State since then. Though most of the Rohingya within Burma live in Rakhine State, they are not to be confused with the Rakhine people, a separate ethnic minority surrounding Burma’s central cities and government.

Rohingya Muslims in Malaysia protesting the Burmese government’s actions against their people – AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Some have attributed the persecution to their Muslim faith, in contrast with the strongly Buddhist central population; others have said it is because they have never really been given citizenship–there are so many overlapping factors in these conflicts within Burma’s borders that it is difficult to pin down one or two simple causes. These conflicts boil up, blood is drawn, and the government has a long history of retaliating against any and all people within that ethnic minority.

The most recent examples of conflicts between the military and the Rohingya have been in 2012, 2015, and the one happening today. Each conflict has stretched on and bled over into the next–it seems that the Rohingya have been in a constant state of turmoil since 2012. The Karen people, largely Buddhist, Christian and animist, received similar treatment and though a ceasefire is currently in place, 128,000 of them still live on the border of Thailand and Burma in refugee camps. This is on the opposite side of the country from the Rohingya.

Aung San Suu Kyi has recently promised repatriation for those that fled the country, provided that they can prove their residency and Burmese citizenship when they return. The problem is that most of the Rohingya never qualified for citizenship in the first place, despite having been there for generations.


Featured image courtesy of AP.