The Rohingya Crisis: Causes of the Mass Exodus and the Potential for Justice and Reconciliation with Dr. Maung Zarni by Ingyin Khine (A23)

by tuftsigl
Feb 01

The South Asian Regional Committee (SARC) hosted a panel in the fall on the Rohingya crisis, which touched on many crucial aspects of the genocide and was followed by a discussion on achieving justice and reconciliation. In his opening remarks, Dr. Maung Zarni mentioned that despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy party having gained power in 2015, many ethnic minorities in Myanmar have yet to achieve true justice. In addition to a genocide against the Rohingya, the Rakhine state is currently facing internal imperial conflicts between the Burmese military and ethnic Rakhine people. He further explained that the two main forces that enflamed this conflict into a genocide were the Burmese military and the Buddhist sangha.

As early as the mid-1960s, the Burmese military adopted a policy to reshape the demographic of North Rakhine state, constructing a “Buddhist” national identity and institutionalizing any other groups as foreigners. Dr. Zarni mentioned that the Buddhist community in Myanmar suffers a majority-minority complex. Even though they are the majority in Myanmar, Buddhists look at world events in which the only news about Islamic men are usually attached with the connotation of terrorism. Making use of this underlying Islamophobia, the military institutionalized the fear of an Islamic invasion. The Rohingya have been scapegoated in Myanmar and continue to be targeted. When the state of Myanmar was tried at the International Court of Justice last year by Gambia, Aung San Suu Kyi travelled all the way to The Hague to effectively deny allegations of the genocide, which increased her support among the Burmese people. She was seen as defending the Burmese people on the world stage, which garnered even more love for her.

Dr. Zarni also mentioned that even though many ethnic minority groups in Myanmar continue to struggle and fight against the imperialist Burmese military, the overall population does not recognize the Rohingya as part of MyanmarUnless Myanmar has a government that has the political will to reverse public opinion and restore the true history of the Rohingya lineage in Myanmar, repatriation will likely not occur. He noted that since genocides are state-organized acts of atrocities, the most significant solution to the crisis relies on other states punishing the genocidaires. Nonetheless, grassroots movements among new generations in Myanmar in speaking up against genocide play a vital role in shifting public opinion of the Rohingya. Dr. Zarni also touched on questions from the audience ranging from India’s treatment on the Rohingyas, 2020 Myanmar elections, and the change in US presidency’s impact on the Rohingya genocide.