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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 20, 2024

Myanmar lashes out at Rohingya

Human history is very complex—as bright as it can be, it could also represent us to be the mere descendants of twisted minds as we repeat the regrettably depressing past. One of many moments predominated by this is the history of ethnic genocide. Today, another ethnic genocide deeply rooted  in religious and ethnic conflicts in Myanmar is continuing to worsen. The Rohingya, a muslim minority group in a country which is predominantly Buddhist, is on the verge of another genocide at the hands of the Myanmar government.

A New York Times article from Nov. 6 highlighted the Myanmar government’s policies against the Rohingya. This country has been regarded as one of the world’s most diversified havens of numerous ethnic groups. Therefore, the conflicts between majority and minority groups were quite well publicized in their long history. However, the persecutions of the Myanmar government against the Rohingya minority group today seem to be going further. This issue is becoming damaging to the international reputation of this country, and those who praised its victory over the military dictatorship that ruled the country for decades, to be the new example of thriving democracy in Asia. The apparent persecution of Rohingya people is becoming a greater stigma today not only for Myanmar but to other countries including the U.S., which praised it for being on a great journey toward democratization.

The Myanmar government declared a very discouraging set of laws for the Rohingya minority group recently. If a Rohingya family proved to have lived on the land for more than 60 years, they could stay in the country and qualify for second-class citizenship. Otherwise, they would be placed in camps and face deportation. The term “second-class citizenship” was coined during the rise of the Nazis in Europe. Before Jewish citizens were driven to the final solutions of ethnic cleansing in the concentration camps and horrid nightmares of torture, they were first degraded gradually to second-class citizenship, deprived of rights for public education and rights to hold civil servitude.

The Rohingya’s Islamic belief immediately imposes a different set of beliefs and cultural practice compared to the state majority of Buddhist believers. The recent rise of birth rates among the Rohingya is believed to be another reason for the Myanmar government to oppose them because their continued growth would be seen as a threat to their majority status in the country’s power holding. Even if they are allowed to stay in their homes, their second-class citizenship is likely to result in being deprived of governmental support, such as voting, rights to education or government services.

The further evidence for the ethnic genocide of Rohingya is continuing to be uncovered. Recently, many Rohingya men and boys were arrested by the government for refusing to accept the plan by the state that displaced them from their homes and other deprivations from proper citizen rights. To the Rohingya, this is the reproduction of the painful history of persecution from the past. Today is rapidly becoming part of that. Some 200,000 fled to neighboring Bangladesh after an attack back in 1978 and in the last three weeks alone, 14,500 Rohingya escaped out of Rakhine state, a territory with a dominant number of their population in Myanmar and the core site of the governmental operations against the Rohingya.

Even the methods of escape are extremely unaffordable, as the usual price to seek help from a broker from the camps are extremely expensive for many Rohingya. Unfortunately, these costly journeys are very risky. These phenomena of Rohingya persecutions today strongly remind me of earlier stages of the Holocaust. There are some parallels between the two: they are being marked as second-class citizens with virtually no support or protections from the state, and many poor or less wealthy Rohingya are not able to afford escape from the country just like many Jews in Europe at that time found it difficult to flee the continent due to the high cost. Even if the Myanmar government marked its new plan to be only a draft, the actions of the policy are working as a dog roaming to chase the Rohingya minorities from stability.

The reason why we should look out for the Rohingya issue and many other similar conflicts around the world is because they remind us well of the atrocities from the past. While we helplessly watch the past repeat itself in similar or even worse magnitudes of hatred beyond the normal sense of humanity, the tragedies continue to burn. However, should we be marked powerless as we see it happen again, even when we try to prevent it from smearing further in this world? The Rohingya refugee crisis, another kind of ethnic genocide in the country with complex roots of different ethnicities, perhaps reminds us all of the need to think more deeply about the nature of history in order to develop conscious decisions to solve this mess. 

What is your take on the Myanmar government and their treatment of the Rohingya? Do you agree or disagree with Hae Rin Lee’s stance? We’d like to hear from you. Please send all feedback to

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