Opinion: It’s time to address the issue in Myanmar

Maddie Newingham

Maddie Newingham

With a chaotic United States and absurd news cycles, it is often hard to put ourselves in perspective on a global scale. While we have problems to fix at home, we must also pursue justice abroad.

Let’s look to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. In summary, Myanmar is largely Buddhist, but has 135 ethnic groups, including a Muslim population called the Rohingya in the western Rakhine State of Myanmar.

More than 500,000 Rohingya people have experienced violence and persecution in their state, have been slaughtered in vain on this journey and have been forced over the border of Bangladesh, leaving everything back home for safety.

As the Indian Express reports, civilians who have safely crossed the border into Bangladesh recall soldiers and extremist Buddhist mobs (which I did not know existed), torching villages to the ground and terrorizing the Rohingyas as they head toward the border.

First, moving half a million people is like moving an entire city into another country in less than a month. It would be like if we decided to move Detroit to Canada because we just do not like Michigan inhabitants and it’s close enough to another country (not that distance stopped Andrew Jackson or Martin Van Buren from forcing Native Americans out of their homes).

Second, Bangladesh is not equipped for the influx of refugees coming across their borders and needs outside help for relief. With a humanitarian crisis such as this, the U.S. cannot be silent to those suffering.

Many western countries have turned their backs to refugees fleeing their homes for safety, and we cannot champion human rights by ignoring so many human beings seeking their unalienable rights.

This crisis is complicated and difficult to grasp. To understand, certain aspects must be brought to light.

First, the Rakhine do not really see the Rohingyas as people of their society, as is common in crises of ethnic cleansing. They view the Rohingyas as burdens to their society.

Secondly, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese diplomat, leader of the National League for Democracy and the first and current state counselor of Myanmar, which is a position comparable to a prime minister. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and is silent to the atrocity surrounding her.

This raises another question: How can someone who has a Nobel Peace Prize and has been globally identified for her good work allow for ethnic cleansing to happen under her nose? Should someone like this be able to keep this fame, and should we revoke this honor? It would be doing a disservice to the Rohingya community and global humanitarian strides taken to ignore this question.

As an American who wants to help but realizes that my country only mettles in the interests of white people, all we can do from home is funnel money for relief and talk about this crisis.

Be angry on social media, talk to your family and friends and simply be visible about the issue. You can donate to the Rohingya Refugee Relief Fund with GlobalGiving or to the relief efforts of UNICEF.

Maddie Newingham is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].