Plaza Voices: Crisis in Myanmar

The recent violence in Myanmar (also known as Burma) has been making headlines. Here are a few fast facts:

  • The Rohingya (pronounced roh-HIN-juh) are a mostly Muslim ethnic group that has lived in Myanmar for hundreds of years.
  • The persecution of this Muslim minority dates back to WWII, when the country gained independence from Britain. The new government considered the Rohingya to be holdovers from colonial times, when the British brought workers from India and elsewhere to Burma.
  • Beginning in the late 1970s, the Myanmar military has led violent crackdowns on the minority Rohingya population, driving about 1 million refugees over the border into Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in Asia and the Middle East.
  • The Rohingya are considered stateless. They were declared "illegal immigrants" in 1978, and their Burmese citizenship was revoked by the military dictatorship in 1982.
  • In February 2017, the United Nations issued a report indicating that the persecution of the Rohingya constitutes possible "crimes against humanity."
  • The most recent crisis began in August 2017 when Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces. The military's extremely violent response has sent tens of thousands of Rohingya fleeing over the borders and led to international outcry from human rights groups.

The plight of the Rohingya is not unique. One of our first Plaza Voices blogs described the similar story of Bhutanese refugees, most of them Hindus of Nepalese descent, who were also stripped of their citizenship in the 1980s and expelled from their country.

To learn more about the Rohingya and other ethnic groups in Myanmar, check out these resources from the Denver Public Library. For a shorter read, this article from the Gale Virtual Reference library is a good introduction. The New York Times' Topics page on Myanmar brings together all of their coverage, and international news outlets like Al Jazeera, the BBC, and the Guardian also offer in-depth reporting on the current crisis. 

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Written by Amma R. on September 10, 2017


WRT on September 12, 2017


Part of religious, ethnic conflict is dehumanizing another group of people. The Rohingya have been called cockroaches. There is a Buddhist monk in Myanmar who has been compared to Hitler.

Steve Pollak on September 13, 2017


Thank you for this. If these poor persecuted people were white Christians, there would be a resounding outcry for relief, and justice.


Thank you for reading. A small post like this can't begin to cover the complexities of this conflict. All we can do is point to resources that go into detail. I hope some of the above resources will be useful.

Fatih D. on September 20, 2017


We talk nothing changes... innocent people still dies, massaccared or ethnically cleansing...

Budhist nationalism (or racism may be) also demage Budhism image known for peace, justice etc.
I think all budhist countries and people should stand against this cruelty if they are sincere...