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Who’s Really Behind The Rohingya Muslims Crisis?

By Polina Tikhonova. Originally published at ValueWalk.

The Rohingya Muslims crisis has become the most discussed topic this week, but who’s responsible for the deadly crisis in Myanmar?

Earlier this week, the Rohingya Muslims crisis has pushed out reports of hurricane Harvey’s devastation in the United States and escalating tensions between North Korea and the U.S., and landed itself in the global spotlight. The United Nations reported that at least 164,000 have fled Myanmar (Burma) into the neighboring Bangladesh in the past nearly two weeks, while disturbing reports indicate that Burmese soldiers are laying landmines to prevent return of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence.

Rohingya Muslims Crisis
Photo / Flickr

Protests erupted all over the world against violence in the Southeast Asian nation, while world leaders are calling on Burmese authorities to put an end to the alleged genocide of Rohingya people in the Buddhist-majority country.

How Did the Rohingya Muslims Crisis Start?

On August 25, a Rohingya militant group called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army carried out a series of violent attacks on police posts, killing 12 police officers. The attacks prompted a furious response from the Burmese military and ultra-nationalist civilian groups, who launched a crackdown on the insurgents.

According to multiple accounts from human rights groups and fleeing Rohingya people, vigilante groups have not spared the civilian population, burning their villages to the ground and shooting civilians in the Rakhine State, the only region in Myanmar where Muslims comprise nearly half of the state’s population.

At least 400 people have died in violence in Myanmar (Burma) in the past nearly two weeks, but experts estimate the death toll of the latest Rohingya Muslims crisis to be higher. Human rights activists accuse pro-government forces and vigilante groups of burning the bodies of Rohingya Muslims they killed to cover up the evidence.

Who Are Rohingya Muslims and Why Are Soldiers Burning Their Bodies?

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority living in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, which, according to the Amnesty International, is one of the most persecuted minority in the world.

The government of Myanmar – as well as other neighboring governments – are refusing to give Rohingya people citizenship rights, leaving them stateless and unwanted. The Rohingya have no access to healthcare and education, while their movement across the country remains limited. The Rohingya themselves claim they are persecuted due to their religious beliefs.

Myanmar is comprised of nearly 90% Buddhists and only 4.3% Muslims. In the Rakhine State, however, Muslims comprise nearly half of the population.

rohingya muslims crisis map of myanmar
own work via Google Maps

What is Myanmar (Burma)?

Myanmar used to be called Burma until 1989, when the military government officially changed the English translations of the country’s name. Burma had long been under British rule and part of India’s territory.

Under British rule, the Rohingya – ethnic south Indians or historically termed Arakanese Indians – relocated on the territory of British Burma. Britons used Rohingya Muslims as cheap workforce on rice fields (Burma used to be a rice hub for the entire Asia). After Burma declared independence in 1948, countries started demarking the borders, but the Burmese government refused to give the Rohingya citizenship rights.

In 1962, the army took over in Burma as a military dictatorship, which prompted the leadership to revive discussions on what to do with hundreds of thousands Rohingya Muslims living in Rakhine State. Two decades later, Burma passed a citizenship bill, but it excluded the Rohingya of any citizenship or political rights.

Today, Myanmar is multiethnic nation and home to nearly 53 million people. The nation has more than 100 ethnic groups, eight of which are major ones. All of the major ethnic groups living in Myanmar but the Rohingya have citizenship rights. There are about 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, though the exact number is unknown given the latest wave of people fleeing the nation.

What is Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army?

The Rohingya Muslims crisis is now at risk of reaching the level of “ethnic cleansing,” as told by the UN secretary general, António Guterres to reporters earlier this week.

UN secretary general antonio guterres quote on rohingya muslims violence

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army emerged in 1948, immediately after Burma gained independence from the United Kingdom. On their flag, the military group pictured two assault rifles and contours of Rakhine State, formerly known as Arakan State, suggesting they see the area as an independent state from Myanmar.

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army had remained silent for decades, until it found financial support in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. The ‘army’ is led by Rohingya people living in Saudi Arabia, and their training camps are located outside Myanmar. Militants have intensified their provocations in the country, attacking police posts, burning Buddhist villages and smashing Buddhist statues.

The violent actions of the militant group have prompted the Burmese military to declare Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army a terrorist group and launch a crackdown on insurgents in Rakhine State. Human rights groups accuse pro-government forces of carrying out attacks against insurgents indiscriminately and killing civilians.

According to witness accounts cited by Reuters, Burmese soldiers are laying landmines to prevent return of Rohingya Muslims fleeing the nation into the neighboring Bangladesh.

Do Rohingya Muslims Want Independence?

The current Rohingya Muslims crisis, which erupted in the wake of Rohingya militants carrying out assaults on police posts late last month, marks the second wave of violence in Myanmar in less than a year.

In October 2016, armed militants carried out multiple attacks on border guard posts along the Southeast Asian nation’s troubled border with Bangladesh, killing nine police officers. Similar to the August 2017 events, the Burmese military reacted immediately and violently, launching a large-scale military operation in Rakhine State.

Experts argue that the Rohingya Muslims crisis is an attempt of Burmese authorities to prevent Rakhine State from seceding from Myanmar. The Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in the country, are fighting for their rights, but some believe one of the most persecuted ethnic minority in the world may have plans to create an independent state in Rakhine State.

Rohingya Muslims have a high birth rate, with each family having up to 10 children. This triggers a dynamic rise in Muslim population in Myanmar, which only further fuels Burmese authorities’ fears of the Rohingya fighting for their independence.

In 2012, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army militants carried out nearly 30 assaults on police posts and a military base in retaliation for decades-long persecution of the Rohingya. As a result, 59 police officers in Myanmar were killed, which triggered a military operation against the militants and brought the official death toll to 88 casualties: 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists.

The post Who’s Really Behind The Rohingya Muslims Crisis? appeared first on ValueWalk.

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