The Rohingya Crisis

Rohingya Refugees flee to Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Kathleen Prior

Rohingya Refugees flee to Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Kathleen Prior

Keelan Clifford, Editor in Chief

 On October 25, 2017, the World Affairs Breakfast Club sat down with Mr. Carl Skau, Swedish Ambassador to the UN Security Council and BC Parent, to talk about the current crisis in Myanmar where there is a systemic, state sanctioned killing of the Rohingya people. In order to understand the crisis, Mr. Skau first gave the World Affairs Breakfast Club a brief history lesson.

Myanmar (called Burma under Anglo-imperialist rule) was a British colony from 1824-1948. Throughout the Anglo-imperialist rule and up until today, Myanmar has retained a strong racial national identity of Burmese. People who aren’t Burmese are often discriminated against with little consequence. In the 1960s there was a military coup that was justified because it was said to quell racial tension and violence. In 1988 there was a huge riot against the military regime and the military violently cracked down against protesters. Mr. Skau explained how, “this is when the relationships with the West broke down.” One of the protesters was Aung Sun Suu Kyi, who was arrested when she spoke at the 8888 protests (August 8, 1988) in front of a half million people demanding a democratic government. She was arrested and became a hero for Western countries since she championed many Western beliefs. She was eventually awarded the Nobel Peace Prize when she was under house arrest and Mr. Skau explained how up until now she was the “Mandela of Myanmar.”

Aung Sun Suu Kyi was elected to be the state counsellor of Myanmar in 2015, though Myanmar’s power is still very much so centralized in its military. In late August, a group of radical Islamist Rohingya terrorists hit a police station and killed several people. In response, the military launched a serious campaign against the Rohingya people. However, this one event is a real justification for the genocide of the Rohingya people who have been hated in Myanmar ever since it was an English colony. The English brought Rohingya people into Myanmar to work and ever since then they have been aggressively discriminated against and are not even considered citizens which denies them educational opportunities or any chance at upward mobility.

The military campaign has had brutal consequences with horrific descriptions reported by the New York Times. One woman named Romaji described how, “she was clubbed in the face, soldiers  tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.” These are however just one woman’s experiences and cannot account for the horror felt by millions of people. Due to this, there has been a massive exodus of the Rohingya people (800,000+ out of the 1.2 million) who have crossed the river into Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh does not want the Rohingya because they feel that they are not their problem and that they are a burden. Thus, the Rohingya have truly nowhere to go.

UN officials have deemed this “ethnic cleansing” and Mr. Skau pointed out how Sweden was the first country to bring the crisis to the attention of the UN Security council.

Mr. Skau explained how the failure of action on part of Aung Sun Suu Kyi is due in part to upcoming elections, but how her failure to act will tarnish her reputation as a freedom fighter.

It is important to realize when genocide and ethnic cleansing is going on it is imperative to recognize it and not refer to it as a “military campaign” or anything else that could minimize the atrocities and events that are taking place. We have a duty to take care of our fellow beings and protect them–not in an imperialist sense, but in a human sense.