President Obama leaves tomorrow to make a historic visit to Southeast Asia, specifically to Burma (also known as Myanmar), where he will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country.
However, escalating violence in western Burma, where ethnic minorities have been attacked, displaced, and persecuted by civilians and state forces, undermines recent democratic progress in the country.
Our newest playlist on the Human Rights Channel provides a lens onto the situation through video and accompanying text, summarized here:
Tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims living side by side in Burma’s Arakan State have been on the rise for months, following allegations of murder and rape committed by Rohingyas. Since late October, they have been the target of retaliatory attacks by their Buddhist neighbors. Two thousand homes have burned down, 70,000 people have been displaced, and more than 100 people have been killed. According to Human Rights Watch, Burmese security forces have joined ethnic Arakan in inflicting violence on Rohingya civilians.
The conflict is rooted in the ongoing dispute regarding the origins of Rohingya Muslims. Once a recognized ethnic minority of Myanmar, they were stripped of citizenship in 1982. Today they remain stateless, and neighboring countries have refused to open their borders to refugees.
The unwillingness of the Burmese or neighboring governments to accept the Rohingya has resulted in a humanitarian crisis, as Rohingya Muslims attempt dangerous escapes from the country, and refugee camps lack the amenities needed to serve growing numbers of people.