Myanmar creates a brand new refugee problem
Myanmar creates a brand new refugee problem

The situation in Myanmar, also known as Burma, is so dire that about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have trekked to Bangladesh to escape the violence.

According to U.N. International Organization for Migration, hundreds of thousands have crossed the border since last month.

Myanmar’s military has used brutal attacks on civilians as part of its military efforts to fight Rohingya militants.

The refugees arrive in Bangladesh with horror stories of their friends and neighbors being shot dead or their homes being set on fire.  

“It seems they wanted us to leave the country,” said Nurjahan, an elderly Rohingya woman who ran away from her burning village.   

To flee Myanmar hasn’t been easy either, the Myanmar army has planted landmines to make their journey even more difficult and dangerous.

“The exodus began Aug. 25 after an insurgent group of Rohingya militants called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked dozens of police outposts and an army camp, killing 12 and igniting days of violent retribution,” writes The Washington Post. “In addition to torching hundreds of villages and killing civilians, the Burmese military has been accused by Amnesty International and other human rights groups of planting land mines at the border, based on the wounds suffered by some of those escaping.”

This isn’t the first time that Rohingya Muslims have made a massive exodus to Bangladesh, Pakistan.  

Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, an estimated 500,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims migrated to Pakistan to escape the violent landscape. In 2012, 100,000 Rohingya were again forced to flee during an anti-Muslim riot.

Bangladesh now has one of the highest concentration of Rohingya in the world. Pakistan is being criticized for its lack of action.

“The government needs to do more: Send them more aid, send them food, and break ties with Myanmar completely,” said Noor Hussain Arkani, leader of the Pakistan chapter of a charity in the Rohingya community, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. “We need world pressure behind us to end this violence, this hell. Just issuing statements isn’t enough.” 

However, Bangladesh isn’t equipped to handle the masses.

Although Pakistan has done its best to deal with the influx of refugees with temporary aid, the Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina has urged Myanmar to "take steps to take their nationals back” and that Burmese authorities “created this problem, and they will have to solve it.” 

“On Monday night, she lambasted Buddhist-majority Myanmar for "atrocities" that she said had reached a level beyond description, telling lawmakers she had "no words to condemn Myanmar" and noting that Bangladesh had long been protesting the persecution of Rohingya Muslims,” writes CBS News. “The crisis has drawn sharp criticism from around the world. The U.N. human rights chief said the violence and injustice faced by the ethnic Rohingya minority in Myanmar - where U.N. rights investigators have been barred from entry - "seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing." 

The Myanmar government have been quick to deny being responsible for the violence.

“Myanmar police disputed that, saying the houses were burned by terrorists they called Bengalis. That term is used derisively by many in Myanmar to describe the Rohingya, who they say migrated illegally from neighboring Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations,” writes CBS News. “Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-olds roots in the Rakhine region.” 

To put it simply, Burma’s current 1 million Rohingya Muslims are without a state.

Author’s note:  This humanitarian crisis isn’t getting much media coverage. Bangladesh PM has pointed out this is Myanmar’s problem, but Myanmar’s dictatorship doesn’t seem to care. This looks like the beginning of a brand new refugee crisis. Why does history keep repeating itself over there?


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