It’s important to stay informed in a world that turns 180 degrees every minute when it comes to politics and social justice issues, but what about the issues going on in other countries? How is one supposed to stay informed on international issues that aren’t being covered by local news broadcasters?
Myanmar, formerly Burma, a Southeast Asian country bordering India and Bangladesh has been brought into focus by the United Nations when satellite imagery revealed villages being burned in the Rakhine State. An article published by the Guardian released statements on the conflict from multiple U.N. and Myanmar government officials. “Available reports suggest that village after village have been burnt; homes have been looted in the Rakhine state. These atrocities attest that the Myanmar government is using arson and terror to depopulate northern Rakhine and take over ownership of lands,” said Masud Bin Momen, U.N.’s Bangladesh representative.
As the primary inhabitants of Rakhine, the Rohingya people have been struggling with systemic discrimination from the Myanmar government, and are denied citizenship, making them stateless. The Rohingya are viewed as “illegal immigrants” and are an ethnic minority, only making up 4% of Myanmar’s population of 52 million.
The crisis began on August 25, when a militant group, Arkan Rohingya Salvation Army (A.R.S.A.) attacked government forces. The government was quick to retaliate and launched a “clearance operation” which killed approximately 1000 and caused 130,000 civilians to flee their homes, according to the U.N. Talks to solve the issue have been going on between Myanmar’s government and U.N. officials.
“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,” said Nikki Haley, the U.N.’s American ambassador when calling out the country’s government.
With the accusations of an ethnic cleansing, the Myanmar government was quick to release a statement. “I can assure you that the leaders of Myanmar, who have been struggling so long for freedom and human rights, will never espouse a policy of genocide or ethnic cleansing and that the government will do everything to prevent it,” said U Thaung Tun, Myanmar’s national security advisor. A mission report published by the United Nations Human Rights Office states otherwise, saying that human rights violations were committed against the Rohingya population by Myanmar security forces.
As more refugees flee toward Bangladesh aid camps, Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese politician, diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner has stayed out of the public eye. But her silence has people asking questions to why she isn’t doing more; most would agree that as a Nobel Prize winner, and Pro Democracy campaigner, Suu Kyi can not play the role of ignorance in a situation such as this where the Rohingya are facing ethnic cleansing. It seems that the same silence is being mirrored by news broadcasters, and with the lack of coverage, the majority of the Western Hemisphere is living in ignorant bliss.