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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Muslims Not Wanted in Myanmar--The Rohingya Refugee Situation

It has been more than four years since I mentioned Myanmar in this blog. At the time the country had transitioned from a military dictatorship to a democracy and there was general optimism about the country's future. However, there was one issue that stood out--violence by the Buddhist majority against the minority Muslim population (Rohingya) in the country. I ended that blog post with the comment that the situation "seems like a recipe for even more disaster." To be sure, last year there were as many refugees from Myanmar (Burma) into the U.S. as there were from Syria. 

This situation has hit the headlines again this week as nearly 125,000 Rohingya fled violence against them in Myanmar and sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh. NBC News notes that:
Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state since the violence began on Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people. 
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Myanmar authorities on Tuesday to end violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country's Rakhine state, warning of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilization.
Taking a page seemingly from Donald Trump's playbook, the leader of Myanmar--Aung San Suu Kyi--"on Wednesday alleged a “huge iceberg of misinformation” was distorting the picture of the Rohingya crisis, which has forced 125,000 of the Muslim minority to flee to Bangladesh." 
In her first comments since Rohingya militant attacks sparked unrest on August 25, Suu Kyi said fake news was “calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities” and to promote “the interest of the terrorists”. 
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has come under intense pressure over her refusal to speak out against the treatment of the Rohingya or chastise the military. 
Analysts say her obduracy despite the years of pressure from rights groups is a sop to the still powerful army and surging Buddhist nationalism in the Southeast Asian country.
And the problem is greatly exacerbated by the fact that Muslim-majority Bangladesh doesn't really want the refugees, as NBC News indicates:
Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest and most crowded nations, plans to go ahead with work to develop an isolated, flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal to temporarily house tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, officials say. 
Dhaka says the Rohingya are not welcome, and has told border guards to push back those trying to enter the country illegally. But close to 125,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh in just 10 days, joining more than 400,000 others already living there in cramped makeshift camps.
Once again, this seems like a recipe for even more disaster... 

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