By: Virginia Fuss
The Rohingya face the problem of the return to their home nation of Myanmar, or Burma, as it was named before 1989. According to the New York Times, “Two Asian countries have agreed to the repatriation of the Rohingya people displaced to Bangladesh by violent attacks on their homes” (Walsh 6). Business Insider details more of the topic, noting that if it weren’t for these magnanimous countries, the Rohingya people would have been forced to return to the abhorrent circumstances that they faced in Myanmar before they fled. However, an ominous fate still looms for those stuck in Myanmar.
As backstory, the Myanmar people have called out for democracy for years, but cannot escape the shadow of the oppressive military leadership. In August of 2017, years of persecution and military harassment built up to an explosion of violence. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a group of Rohingya militants, attacked several members of the Myanmar police force, yet another example of a small cluster of people ruining the reputation and livelihood of their greater group. This attack was the precursor to the impending advancement of the Myanmar genocide. The Myanmar military’s response was claiming to attack those militants exclusively, but this opened an opportunity to castigate the entire culture.
Under this military leadership, many people face persecution, namely those of Rohingya culture, who make up 1.1 million of the country’s population and a majority are Muslim. For centuries, they have lived in the Buddhist Myanmar, but more recently have undergone serious violence and hatred for their cultural differences. Since 1982, they have been denied citizenship, the beginnings of an attempt to force them out. While many countries have tried to ignore the problems in Myanmar, the persecution (and now genocides) of these cultural groups have not stopped, and there are few places for them to flee to.
While all this is occurring, people in other countries are oblivious to the suffering. A historian and teacher as North Springs, Mr. Bengston, comments on the matter: “This issue is taking place over contemporary views of Muslims within a larger war on terrorism, and numerous cases of civil rights abuses,” he says. “[Another problem includes] human rights abuses by the Myanmar government — [lots of corruption].”
Not unlike issues of the Palestinian Middle East, this is a deeply rooted clash of cultures. Muslims have lived in this area of Asia for hundreds of years, dating back to the 12th century, so the problem isn’t with cultural invasion or forced assimilation. It is a problem of coexisting. Myanmar’s military leadership is unwilling to accept the Muslim majority because of the small group of Rohingya militants that confronted them. Blame cannot be placed on these Muslims when the problem goes farther back than this attack.
This issue evokes anger from many humanitarian groups because no other country is willing to lend a hand to those being persecuted. The tricky part, though, is that the persecutors are the government, so going around them to help those in trouble could cause an international incident. Morally, some see this as a small price to pay to save people from a genocide based solely on their culture. Although neighboring countries are striving to make room and acceptance of the Rohingya, this does little to subdue the real problem—many people who are still trapped in Myanmar are subject to the effects of the genocide. Frustration sparks because one individual cannot safely make a change. It is up to the larger organizations and unions such as the United Nations to point out and destroy this problem.
Through observation, it can be said that powerful countries such as the United States have done little to quell the hardships of Myanmar. Until recently, the Monroe Doctrine was strictly followed, keeping the US out of incidents that didn’t pertain to it. But under the Obama administration, this doctrine was broken, opening American resources to those in need. No longer was it unorthodox for the US to be protectors of others in need, although this has shifted since then.
Ultimately, an individual can only do so much. As stated above, established governments can make much more of a dent in the problem. But as citizens of governments such as these, with freedoms like press or speech, we can bring more acknowledgment to it. In this world, there are things going on that seem a universe away, or even centuries past, but in reality are occurring to ordinary people every day that we must be aware of.