By Violet Wallerstein
A mass exodus of almost 400,000 Muslims escaping violence in Myanmar and fleeing to Bangladesh has been taking place since late August according to CNN. Rohingya Muslims are leaving the state of Rakhine due to military violence. The military of Myanmar claims that they are taking measures against terrorists in their country. However, the Rohingyas have concerns that the military is killing them because they are Muslim.
The country of Myanmar is largely Buddhist, so Muslims are a minority. Myanmar has denied Rohingyas human rights and citizenship, believing them to be Bangladeshi, whereas Bangladesh considers them Burmese. This population of people is essentially homeless and do not have citizenship anywhere.
The Rohingya militants known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army offered to stop their offensive military actions for a time in order for the humanitarian crisis to be addressed, but the government refused. They claimed they would not negotiate with terrorists, and so the violence continues.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has said that this is a classic case of ethnic cleansing. According to High Commissioner Hussein, the U.N. committee has been addressing the situation of human rights in Myanmar since 2007.
Since the recent increase in violence it is already estimated that over 1,000 people have died. There are also deaths not only directly due to violence, but also because of the dangers of attempting to get to Bangladesh. To seek haven in Bangladesh, the Rohingyas must cross the Naf River, either wading through the muddy water with children on their backs, or paying one quarter of their average annual income to have a boat safely take them across. Landmines along the two countries’ borders have been activated; another deadly obstacle for those hoping to find refuge.
The Red Cross and other humanitarian groups are attempting to help these refugees, but many of the camps in Bangladesh are full. They are attempting to ramp up their efforts to help these people and provide more food and first aid, but currently there are not enough resources to go around.
The Acorn had a conversation with several Drew students regarding this issue. When asked if she knew about the exodus, Leanne Fogarty (‘20), said “No, I did not.” Hers was not an uncommon response. Anthony Castronova (‘20) commented “I don’t know enough about the topic [to] voice an opinion on it.” Drew students overall are unaware of the crisis and have reported seeing no American news outlets discuss it.