The Rohingya people are known as the most unwanted community in the world. They are being forcibly driven out of Myanmar by their military and police, mainly because of their religious differences. The Rohingya are Muslim, while Myanmar is a primarily Buddhist nation. The United Nations has been investigating Myanmar for “crimes against humanity,” which is an extremely serious charge. Myanmar’s attacks on the Rohingya have been brutal, leaving villages burned to the ground, and causing many fatalities. This major issue has gotten extremely little press attention.
The stateless Rohingya people have resided in the Buddhist nation of Myanmar for hundreds of years, but have been driven out, mostly into Bangladesh, repeatedly throughout history. Today as the Myanmar military continues to devastate Rohingya settlements, we must question why these people are so intensely persecuted.
Russ Porter, health teacher, said, “The Myanmar government, like many in history, want to exert power over a minority group that they dislike. In this case they are targeting the Rohingya because they are Muslim and an easy target.” This explains part of the reason they are being driven out today, but fails to enlighten us on why the Rohingya have been so hated in the past.
Ever since World War II there have been many conflicts as a result of Western countries removing themselves from power. Chris Taylor, Model U.N. advisor, said, “When western powers stepped out, it left a power vacuum that a variety of different ethnic/religious groups have seized in an attempt to create their own niche in the world where they could be tolerated.” This has led to governments being reformed, and in these new governments minorities like the Rohingya are shut out and not given a voice.
Because of their exclusion, the oppressed people tend to fight back. The Rohingya have very limited power, so when they attacked some Myanmar military outposts in August of 2017, it was easy for the Myanmar military to brutally retaliate. It is widely believed that these attacks against the Rohingya now qualify as genocide. So why hasn’t the United States government stepped in?
This major issue has gotten little press here because It is hard to understand these conflicts when we do not understand the history of these nations and religions. Taylor said, “I think most stories get promoted based on what is most popular among the viewers and frankly most Americans are pretty ignorant about most non-western dealings in the world. Traditionally most western civilizations have not become familiar with Eastern traditions and therefore most would not understand the longstanding territorial claims that each of the different groups have to the region.”
The Myanmar Government does not recognize the Rohingya as a legitimate religion or even an ethnic group. This is a major problem, and yet we know very little about it. There comes a point at which we have an obligation to help. Considering that the United Nations has charged Myanmar with crimes against humanity and accused of genocide, It seems time for a world power to step in.
The Rohingya people have nowhere to go. As they are driven out the world needs to open up to accept them. We are left to hope that someone will step in and help the Rohingya.