From time to time the world community is reminded about the existence of the nation called Myanmar (formerly Burma) only because the spotlight is shifted once again to highlight the Rohingya tragedy, reported on by NEO on more than one occasion.
The focus here is on a country in Southeast Asia, which is equal in size to France (with a somewhat lower population) and that possesses vast natural resource reserves of various types.
Myanmar could very well become yet another Asian Tiger. However, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world, torn apart by internal conflicts, exacerbated by various external problems.
Myanmar is home to more than 100 ethnic groups, with the Burmese one accounting for approimately70% of the population. Other prominent ethnicities (Shan, Kachin) demand (often by means of long-term military conflict) some form of autonomy from the central government from time to time. By autumn 2016, Myanmar was home to 1 million Rohingya, who constitute 1.5 % of the nation’s population.
The long-term conflict between the government and the Rohingya people is complex in nature, but one key issue at stake stems from religious differences, the Rohingya are mainly Muslim, while the majority of Myanmar’s populace is Buddhist.
At the end of August 2016, armed insurgents, belonging to one of the movements that demand independence for the Rohingya, attacked Myanmar’s border post from the neighboring nation of Bangladesh, causing escalation in the conflict. In response, police and military units destroyed hundreds of Rohingya villages thus forcing approximately 700,000 Rohingya peoples to take refuge across the border (mainly in Bangladesh).
As for the “refugees” the Reuters agency wrote about an incident, on 18 November, involving the Myanmar police opening fire on two “smugglers” during their arrest in one of the temporary camps in Myanmar, housing the Rohingya who had lost their homes. Witnesses reported that the police actions prevented yet another smuggling operation by sea from taking place (supposedly headed to Malaysia), involving transportation of 106 people, including 20 children, in rickety boats.
It was also reported that the “smuggling business” had been prospering in Myanmar long before the tragic events of 2016. After all, Africa is not the only place where businessmen make money off people’s misfortune by luring them with promises of “beautiful” countries.