1. Activate world knowledge-Where is Myanmar? What do you know about that country/part of the world?
2. What do you know about Muslims? Why might they be in trouble?
Why have these Muslims been violently driven out of their home in Myanmar?
By Patricia Smith
Plight: a dangerous, difficult, or otherwise unfortunate situation
Rohingya: a minority group that has been treated badly
Buddhist: a person who practices Buddhism, a major world religion
As her village burned behind her, a young woman named Rajuma was approached by a pack of soldiers. They tore her screaming baby boy out of her arms and dragged Rajuma off. Survivors of the attack, in the Asian nation of Myanmar, say they saw government soldiers burning families in their homes and killing dozens of unarmed people, including children.
“People were holding the soldiers’ feet, begging for their lives,” Rajuma says. “But they didn’t stop.”
Rajuma is a Rohingya Muslim. The Rohingya is a minority group from Myanmar (also known as Burma) that has long been persecuted by the majority population. Which is Buddhist. The Rohingya have lived there for centuries, long before the country gained independence from Great Britain in 1948.
Pause and think: Why would the author choose to start with Rajuma's story? Is Rajuma the person the entire article is about or is the article about more than just this one girl?
Over the past few months, more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. That’s more than half of the 1 million Rohingya who lived there.
The military, and in some cases, Buddhist mobs have been burning Rohingya villages and killing civilians. Human rights groups say the government troops have one goal: to erase the entire Rohingya communities.
“There are lots of ethnic conflicts all over the world,” says John Sifton from Human Rights Watch. “But it’s rare that a government . . . accuses an entire population of not being citizens and targets them for removal.”
Myanmar’s army claims that is has been acting in response to attacks by Rohingya militants and that it is targeting only Insurgents. But according to eyewitness accounts, the attacks have been widespread and largely directed at unarmed Rohingya villagers.
Pause and think: What would it be like to be forced out of your home against your will? How would you feel if it was the government of your country forcing you out?
A History of Hatred
The conflict between the Rohingya and Myanmar’s Buddhist population goes back to World War II (1939-1945). The Rohingya fought with the Allies, while the Buddhists sided with the occupying Japanese.
After the Allies won, the Rohingya hoped to be rewarded with independence. That didn’t happen. Instead, leaders of the newly independent Burma (Myanmar’s name until 1989) blamed the Rohingya for the country's problems, claiming they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Over time, the Rohingya were stripped of their rights. They have been denied citizenship since 1982, cannot move around the country freely, and have no access to government services like health care and education.
The persecution eventually fueled a Rohingya uprising. The militants attacked Myanmar military outposts in August 2017, sparking the current crisis.
Pause and think: How are Burma and Myanmar related? Why didn't the Rohingya gain their independence after World War II?
To escape the violence, many Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, a Muslim country. To get there, some of them walk for weeks over mountains and through rivers, eating leaves and drinking rainwater to stay alive. Others arrive in rickety boats, or drown trying to escape.
Pause and think: What do you imagine the trip into Bangeladesh must feel like? Connect to your life-how would this trek be different than just going camping for the weekend?
Those Rohingya who survive the journey live in the massive refugee camps that have sprung up.
Though Bangladesh is a poor country, its prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, has welcomed the Rohingya. Her response stands in contrast to that of one of Myanmar’s leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi. A democracy advocate and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, Suu Kyi has been criticized for failing to defend the Rohingya.
As the crisis continues, human rights groups say it’s critical that the international community speak up and demand justice for the Rohingya. “As a society,” says Rich Weir of Human Rights Watch, “we don’t want to live in a world where governments are allowed to target a group like this and do whatever they want.
What are some causes of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar?