14 September 2017

South Africa: Explainer - What's Happening to the Rohingya Muslims?

Photo: Nomfundo Xolo/GroundUp
Over a thousand people marched to Parliament to protest against the killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Have you lost track of the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, and why they are considered a persecuted minority? Confused about the situation in Myanmar, and why previously saintly Aung San Suu Kyi appears to be rapidly ceding her moral high ground? Wondering if South Africa is doing anything about what is widely regarded as a human rights catastrophe? We have you covered. By REBECCA DAVIS.

Who are the Rohingya Muslims?

Technically they are just "the Rohingya", the majority of whom happen to be Muslim. They are a group who live in north-west Myanmar, squeezed between that country and Bangladesh. Neither Myanmar or Bangladesh will give them citizenship.

Why not?

It's complicated. The Rohingya have roots in what is now Myanmar which stretch back centuries, but are very much a distinct group to the rest of the Myanmar population. They speak their own dialect, for instance, and their religion puts them at odds with Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

During the British colonial occupation of Myanmar (then Burma), Myanmar was treated as a province of India. The British thus permitted free movement between India and Myanmar because they considered it a form of internal migration. The Myanmar government now sees the movement that...

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