BOLIVIA: CHIPAYA COMMUNITY DISPLACED BY FLOODS
Nobody knows how many have been displaced internally or killed, Refugees International President Eric Schwartz said, but we do know there is carnage and chaos in Rohingya communities in Rakhine, which should be shocking to all.
"Nobody knows how many have been displaced internally or killed," Refugees International President Eric Schwartz said, "but we do know there is carnage and chaos in Rohingya communities in Rakhine, which should be shocking to all."
A local man carries an old Rohingya refugee woman as she is unable to walk after crossing the border, in Teknaf, Bangladesh on September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
With the United Nations convening this week for its annual General Assembly of speeches and meetings, several issues are taking center stage.
In addition to discussing the looming threat of a nuclear-capable North Korea, tensions with Iran, and combatting climate change, world leaders are also addressing the growing and increasingly dangerous crisis brewing between the Rohingya and Myanmar's military forces.
The crisis has led to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya being beaten, tortured, and displaced from their homes in the southeast Asian country. But it has gone relatively under-reported until recent weeks, when tensions between the minority ethnic group and Burmese forces boiled over into violence.
The Rohingya are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that have lived for centuries in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar's Rakhine State. They make up roughly 2% of the country's population.
The government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, even though they've resided in the country since the 8th Century.
Rohingya Muslims are neither recognized as an ethnic group, nor as citizens, but as "resident foreigners." Because they are stateless, the Rohingya do not have freedom of movement, access to higher education, or the ability to hold public office.
The majority of the Rohingya reside in Rakhine State. The region is one of Myanmar's poorest, with "ghetto-like camps" and a lack of access to basic goods, services, and opportunities, according to Al Jazeera.
Though the Rohingya, described as "the most persecuted minority in the world," have always faced hardship, their situation rapidly worsened after Myanmar's 1962 military coup.
The country has struggled in recent years to move from a military-controlled junta to a democracy headed by "unofficial" elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Though the military no longer controls the government, the Rohingya are still struggling to secure their identity.
Tensions between the Rohingya and Myanmar's security forces boiled over in August when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant group Myanmar classifies as a terrorist organization, attacked security forces and killed a dozen Burmese security personnel. It's unclear how much support the group has among the Rohingya.
In response, the Burmese military launched what it called a "clearance operation" aimed at purging Rohingya militants who attacked security forces in August. The United Nations has described the move as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Burmese military has targeted 62 Rohingya villages with arson attacks between August 25 and September 14. A total of 948 buildings were destroyed in the areas that were targeted.
Over 400,000 people, a quarter of the Rohingya population in Rakhine State, have fled the region since the counterattack began, going into neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, and India. Thousands of Rohingya women have given accounts of being beaten and raped by government soldiers.
It's unlikely poorer nations like Bangladesh, which has taken in majority of the displaced Rohingya, will be able to shoulder the burden for much longer without international aid.
Although India has welcomed some of the Rohingya refugees, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not addressed the Burmese military's offensive against the minority group. India's Home Minister, meanwhile, has describe Rohingya refugees in India as illegal immigrants who pose a national security threat.
Aung San Suu Kyi said little about the crisis until recently. She was forced to cancel her planned trip to the UN last week amid international outcry over the plight of the Rohingya.
On Tuesday, Suu Kyi said during a speech, "We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state."
Suu Kyi's apparent reluctance to address the Rohingya crisis has prompted calls that her Nobel Prize be revoked. Over 400,000 people have signed a petition urging that the honor be taken away.
Fellow Nobel Prize laureates also criticized Suu Kyi's silence. Malala Yousafzai wrote, "Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote, "My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep."
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