As with Muslims in India, Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are denied the luxury afforded by the western world to China’s Uighurs: attention.
For the Uighurs, the US and the west weeps copiously and demands that their oppressors cease their actions.
But India’s Muslims and Myanmar’s Rohingyas suffer from the western world’s twin afflictions – selective myopia and amnesia – even though they too are being horrifically repressed and oppressed.
Until Myanmar’s generals totally blotted their copybooks by launching a coup that removed Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, hardly anyone who mattered spoke about the intolerable conditions created for the Rohingyas in Myanmar. Those conditions forced one million or so to flee to Bangladesh five years ago.
But after the generals behaved as they did towards Myanmar’s experiment with democracy – and imperilled the business climate – the US decided to call the Rohingyas’ massacre a “genocide”.
There are many ways of understanding genocide but the Rohingyas’ situation may be best understood as a slow-motion extermination. This blog from 2017 explains it all much better, but in case you don’t read it, here are two key points:
** Myanmar stripped the Rohingyas of citizenship in 1982; it says they are originally from Bangladesh and refers to them as “Bengalis”.
** The Rohingyas are not regarded as one of Myanmar’s so-called national races, which is to say people whose ancestors had a documented presence in the country before 1823.
Anyway, the point is the Rohingyas’ state of woe has gone on for 40 years.
And after a million or so were chased out or allowed to flee to Bangladesh, the Rohingyas have remained in dire straits. In the past five years, Bangladesh has done its best for the refugees, but now, it too has lost patience. Dhaka has been intensifying restrictions on the Rohingyas’ ability to earn a living and move about freely. To their statelessness and persecution is added the doleful prospect of literally starving to death.
Even so, despite the repression they have long faced, the Rohingyas (like India’s Muslims) seem to be a second-string hard luck cause.
The first cause, for the western world, is the Uighurs, but that doesn’t seem to be on account of how deeply they are oppressed so much as the identity of their oppressor.
Read the others in this series: