Religious clashes in Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country, have driven more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country, provoking the United Nations’ top human rights official to call the campaign against them “ethnic cleansing.” It’s damaged the fame of the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi: Her long silence on the violence has had some experts to request her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. It has raised doubts about whether Myanmar can keep attracting the levels of foreign investment the Southeast Asian nation has counted on to modernize the economy since it opened up to the outside world six years ago.
What was the cause?
The latest tensions were sparked on Aug. 25 when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 25 police and army posts, killing a dozen security officials in the eastern state of Rakhine. The military responded with what it calls “clearance operations.” There have been reports of security forces and Buddhist vigilantes indiscriminately attacking Muslims in the state and burning their villages. The army said more than 400 people have died, most of them militants, while human-rights groups say hundreds of villagers have been killed. The military’s response has been similar to its reaction after an ARSA operation in October 2016: UN investigators concluded soldiers “very likely” committed crimes against humanity. An estimated 87,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar then.
The government of Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country, claims the Rohingya people are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and has denied them citizenship, leaving them stateless.The Rohingya - who have their own language and culture - say they are descendants of Muslim traders who have lived in the region for generations.Rohingya refugees are temporarily detained at the Bangladesh border.
Refugees temporarily detained at the border.
The systematic discrimination against the Rohingya people has left them living in deplorable conditions and segregated, with limited access to schools, healthcare and jobs, according to Amnesty.
Tensions between the minority group and the mainly Buddhist Rakhine population erupted into rioting in 2012, driving tens of thousands from their homes and into displacement camps.