WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MYANMAR?
What is happening in Myanmar?
These days we are hearing a lot about violence in Myanmar. Many people are fleeing their country to have a shelter elsewhere. But what is the story behind it all? Who are these people and why are they being slaughtered or made to leave their homes and their land?
Here is a brief history of the people called Rohingya.
Described as the world’s most persecuted people, 1.1 million Rohingya people live in Myanmar.
They live predominately in Rakhine state, where they have coexisted uneasily alongside Buddhists for decades.
Rohingya people say they are descendants of Muslims, perhaps Persian and Arab traders, who came to Myanmar generations ago.
The Myanmar government treats them as stateless people, denying them citizenship.
For decades ethnic tensions have simmered in Rakhine state, with frequent eruptions of violence. Last October nine police officers were killed by armed men, believed by officials to be Muslims.
Amid the ensuing violence, 87,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh and government troops expanded their presence in Rakhine state.
Last month Myanmar further increased the number of troops in Rakhine, after seven Buddhists were found hacked to death.
The buildup of troops prompted warnings of a fresh wave of violence. The military has reported that 400 people have been killed in the violence. The UN says 123,000 people have fled to Bangladesh. Those who have made it to the border have walked for days, hiding in jungles and crossing mountains and rivers. Many are sick and some have bullet wounds.
On Tuesday the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said it was “gravely concerned” about the continuing conflict and about reports that civilians had died while seeking safety.
On Monday the UN said its aid agencies had been blocked from supplying life-saving supplies such as food, water and medicine to thousands of civilians in northern Rakhine state.
As well as claiming the Rohingya are burning their own villages and killing Buddhists and Hindus, the Myanmar military has said the majority of those killed in the violence were “terrorists”.
Such claims are impossible to verify as access to Rakhine is limited. The government has accused international aid workers of helping “terrorists” besiege a village in Rakhine state. The claim was condemned as dangerously irresponsible by aid workers, who fear for their safety.