CWA Commentary

Photo Source: The Indian Express
   NIAS Course on Global Politics
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
For any further information or to subscribe to GP alerts send an email to subachandran@nias.res.in
Print Bookmark

CWA # 35, 26 June 2018

South Asia
Myanmar: Why won't they do anything for the Rohingya?

  Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Unfortunately, the Rohingyas have not been unable to garner any support from the other ethnic groups within Myanmar who are fighting the Burman government and the army. As a result, the Myanmarese be it the Burmans or any other ethnic group within the country would not do anything to help the Rohingyas.

Project Associate, NIAS

On 22 June 2018, Adama Dieng, UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, commended Bangladesh government and insisted on peaceful co-existence of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh. Bangladesh who have provided refuge and support to 700, 000 Rohingyas, have been appreciated by the world for their proactive role. Rohingyas who are the victim of forced and violent evacuation from Myanmar are termed by UN as “most prosecuted.” UN has labelled the crisis as an act of ethnic cleansing. This statement has been vehemently denied by Myanmar. Additionally, Myanmar has been difficult and uncooperative towards UN committees on this issue.

Only in April 2018, Aung San Suu Kyi agreed to allow UN human rights and development organisations to enter Myanmar to prepare the ground for the peaceful return of Rohingyas. This change of stand on part of Suu Kyi is critically viewed as a coverup against the criticism against her. There is a big question whether the Myanmarese genuinely want the Rohingya’s to return. This scepticism leads one to question why won't they do anything for the Rohingya?

 

Rohingya: When the Myanmar Society Thinks Differently 

Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently the face of Myanmar since her party NLD came to power in 2016, have met the largest share of criticism for this crisis. The reason being, first, she was expected to be different from the previous government and Junta. Secondly, before coming to power she was symbolic of peace and freedom. This gained her noble prize and several other awards. Therefore, this was shocking for the world, that the level of atrocities and cruelty towards the Rohingya moved the world except for the person who was thought to be the bastion of peace. 

However, it is impartial to blame Suu Kyi alone for the ethnic cleansing, because of two aspects: firstly, it is known fact that even though NLD is in power, the real decision still lies in the hands of Tatmadaw.

Secondly, causes for the Rohingya crisis has several intertwined layers to it. Some of them are ethnic and religious disparity among the Rakhines and Rohingyas; economy and underdevelopment of the Rakhine state; and also, in the way the society thinks. Suu Kyi, her government, her vote bank and the military belong to the same society, they think in the similar lines.

The last cause will explain why the Myanmarese won’t do anything for the Rohingyas.

 

‘We’ versus ‘Others’

The problem of ‘we’ versus ‘others’ is not new in Myanmar society. This is one of the root cause of the ethnic conflict in the country. The Burmans who form the majority ethnic group is the protagonist of this concept. The Myanmar, Burmanisation and its imposition on other ethnic groups through language, culture and cuisine have led to divide between them and other ethnic groups. The military and the government who are part of same society propagate and assist the idea.

Therefore, it is no different with the Rohingyas. Their treatment or to put it harshly hatred towards Rohingya originates from the notion that they are the ‘others’.  Rohingya appearance, religion, culture and language are different, thus they are considered as others. Furthermore, due to darker skin colour compared to the majority of Burmans, they are considered inferior. The inferior who do not belong to their society. Thus, there is no sympathy for them.

A fair majority of Myanmarese believe that the Rohingyas are Bengali and infiltrated in Myanmar. Plus, all the international attention to Rohingyas and criticism on Myanmar, have made the situation worse. The Myanmarese dislike the Rohingyas further for demeaning their country. This sentiment towards the Rohingya has been accelerated by their fear.

 

Majority’s minority syndrome

The Rohingya crisis is an ethno-religious conflict. The above paragraph explains ethnic animosity; the religious difference of the Rohingyas, who are majority Muslim, also play a role in the conflict. Myanmarese is majority Buddhists approximately around 80 per cent of them, whereas Muslims form a small minority of four per cent. But the majority suffers a minority syndrome of living in a fear of dying out or withering out. The majority is afraid of becoming the minority.

The Buddhists believe they will be taken over by the other religions especially Islam, thus giving birth to their hatred towards to the followers of Islam. Rohingya’s are the victim of this perceived fear. Additionally, superstitious belief that Buddhism will come to end one day; inter-religious marriages; and radical ideas propagated by radical monk such as Ashin Wirathu and foundations such as Ma-Ba Tha has made the scenario worse.  

Governmental sanction to stop interfaith marriages and leaders like Suu Kyi’s tight lip towards hatred depicted towards Muslims in several events and social media hint their covert support and also shows that most of the society think in the same line.

 

Other Ethnic groups

Unfortunately, the Rohingyas have not been unable to garner any support from the other ethnic groups within Myanmar who are fighting the Burman government and the army.

The reasons being, firstly, the Rohingya conflict unlike them is leaderless thus making the group vulnerable. Secondly, some of the ethnic groups also believe that the international attention on the Rohingya is diverting the attention from their conflict and violence on them.

As a result, the Myanmarese be it the Burmans or any other ethnic group within the country would not do anything to help the Rohingyas.

Print Bookmark

Other CWA Publications

The World This Week
April 2021 | CWA # 456

GP Team

Iran's 60 per cent nuclear enrichment, US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, India's second COVID wave, US-China Climate dialogue,  Sanctions on Russia, and US-Japan Dialogue

read more
Conflict Weekly 66
April 2021 | CWA # 455

IPRI Team

Riots in Northern Ireland, Sabotage on an Iranian nuclear facility, and a massacre in Ethiopia

read more
The World This Week
April 2021 | CWA # 454

GP Team

Return of the Iran nuclear talks, Pak-Russia rapprochement, Greenland elections, and Russia-Ukraine tensions

read more
Conflict Weekly 65
April 2021 | CWA # 453

IPRI Team

Global gender gap report, Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam talks failure, Maoist attack in India, Border tensions between Russia and Ukraine, and the Security forces take control of Palma in Mozambique

read more
The World This Week
April 2021 | CWA # 452

GP Team

The WHO Report on COVID-19, and Brazil's political crisis

read more
Afghanistan
March 2021 | CWA # 451

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

The US-Taliban Deal: One Year Later

read more
NIAS GP Debate on Quad
March 2021 | CWA # 450

Akriti Sharma

The Quad Plus and the search beyond the four countries

read more
NIAS GP Debate on Quad
March 2021 | CWA # 449

Avishka Ashok

Despite the economic challenges, there are opportunities for Quad

read more
NIAS GP Debate on Quad
March 2021 | CWA # 448

Apoorva Sudhakar

India's Endgames, Roles and Limitations in Quad

read more
NIAS GP Debate on Quad
March 2021 | CWA # 447

Sukanya Bali

Tracing the Quad's evolution in the last two decades

read more
Conflict Weekly 64
March 2021 | CWA # 446

IPRI Team

Bloody Week in Myanmar, a Suicide attack in Indonesia and an Insurgency in Mozambique

read more
The World This Week
March 2021 | CWA # 445

GP Team

Fifty years of India-Bangladesh relations, Israel's elections and North Korea's new missile tests

read more
Conflict Weekly 63
March 2021 | CWA # 444

IPRI Team

Sanctions on China, Saudi Arabia ceasefire in Yemen, the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka, and a massacre in Niger

read more
The World This Week
March 2021 | CWA # 443

GP Team

The Moscow Summit on Afghanistan, US-China Dialogue in Alaska, Return of the US to East Asia, UK Defence Policy Review and the Protests in Lebanon

read more
Conflict Weekly 62
March 2021 | CWA # 442

IPRI Team

Gender Protests in Australia, Expanding Violence in Myanmar and Anti-protests bill in the UK

read more
The World This Week
March 2021 | CWA # 441

GP Team

Quad Summit, Ten Years of Fukushima and China's Two Sessions

read more

Click below links for year wise archive
2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018