Chinese head of state Xi Jinping made his first official visit to Myanmar (Burma) on Friday, where he met with State Councillor and de facto leader of the country Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and the Burmese military’s infamous commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Although it was Jinping’s first visit since assuming office, the occasion marked 70 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries and signifies a continued mutual desire to unite their economic and strategic interests. A total of 33 agreements were signed to speed up China-backed development projects in Myanmar and bolster the China-Myanmar-Economic-Corridor; a vital component of the wider Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Both countries have track records of serious state-sponsored human rights abuses, and share an increasing disdain for, and distancing from the West. With the tantalising promise of economic prosperity, has China got Myanmar under its thumb, and will development come at the expense of human rights.
by Lotty Clare
Last month The Gambia, with the support of the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation (OIC), filed a lawsuit in the International Court of Justice against Myanmar, accusing the state of breaching the Genocide Convention due to the systematic violence carried out against Rohingya. Public hearings will take place on 10-12 of December in the Hague and will be attended by a team headed by State Councillor and de facto head of state Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
New discussions have been taking place about the future of the displaced Rohingya population in Bangladesh, and their potential repatriation journey back over the border to Myanmar. The progression of the repatriation process however, as the UN has reiterated, remains frustratingly slow. A lack of guarantees, respect, and honesty on the Burmese government’s part is maintaining a firm unwillingness among Rohingya community leaders to make the decision to return home. But the Rohingya are not the only displaced minority demanding security guarantees and respect for their rights from the Burmese government. Elsewhere in the country, as well as across the Thai and Chinese borders other displaced ethnic groups – such as Kachin and Karen – are being faced with the same dilemma. Either to remain in squalid refugee camps, or make the journey home and risk returning to renewed violence and repression.
The Rohingya crisis has saturated global media over the past two years, but since it was placed under the spotlight in 2016 I can’t help but think the international response it has initiated has been too little, and too late. All over the world we see grave injustices occurring and human rights abuses on mass scales. It only seems as though an international response is warranted, however, when these injustices reach some sort of pinnacle; often manifesting as the deaths of many thousands. We should be able to see the warning signs by now, and 2019 should be a year of working towards prevention, rather than mastering the art of tidying up the mess.
by Josephine Moysey
From November 27th to 30th, 2017, Pope Francis visited Myanmar, the country I’ve called home for the last three years. There was much speculation before he arrived: would he say the word “Rohingya” or not? It’s not as simple decision as it might initially seem. Within Myanmar, the term “Rohingya” is perceived as somewhat inflammatory; the Rohingya themselves are seen as being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Many refer to them as “Bengali”. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refers to them as “the Muslim community in Rakhine State”. A common opinion heard and shared among people within the Burmese Buddhist community is one of condemnation of the Pontiff, though this is not the official line. They have accused him of only supporting Muslims and not understanding or respecting the Buddhist community here. They say that even his very presence at this time shows that he is a Muslim sympathiser.
On the other hand, human rights groups urged the Pope to use the term “Rohingya”. They claimed the Pope needed to validate this identity and use the term as a show of support. Ultimately, Pope Francis did not use the term “Rohingya” whilst he was here. What was his reasoning for this?
Content warning: ethnic cleaning, sexual violence.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have just signed an agreement which concerns the repatriation of over 600,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled their homeland in Rakhine state since August. What many are now rightfully calling out as genocide, the persecution, murder and rape of Rohingya people and the burning of their villages has left deep scars.
Content warning: genocide, ethnic cleansing, sexual assault.
Buddhism is often perceived as a religion and philosophy of peace, its proponents kind and gentle souls, epitomised by the charismatic and jovial Dalai Lama. Yet in recent years, stories have broken out regarding the behaviour of Buddhists. A minority within tarnishing the majority it might remain, but the actions of the Myanmar military and the feelings of the population against the Rohingya have cast a shadow across Buddhism.