To understand a current crisis situation, it is crucial to understand the history of the nation, it’s culture, political regime evolution, religion, geographical location, neighbouring nations and their past diplomatic relationships with the nation, the civil structure (including ethnic groups). The chosen crisis is that of Myanmar and the Rohingya.
Myanmar is a Southeast Asian country whose size is 261,228 square miles (676,578 square kilometers) (Topich et al. 6). Formerly as Burma, the country borders Bangladesh and India to the west, Laos, and Thailand to its west and China to its north. Myanmar has more than 100 ethnic groups whose official language is Burmese, and about seven recognized regional languages (Topich et al. 7). The country's capital city is Naypyidaw. Yangon is the country’s largest city and its former capital city.
The country was colonized by Britain until it gained its independence in 1948 (Cederman et al. 11). Before the invasion of British who came in as colonizers, the indigenous inhabitants of Myanmar lived as one community. However, with the British rule in place, there was an introduction of various economic, social-cultural and administrative changes that completely changed the country (Keyes et al. 23). Since independence, the state has witnessed longest-running civil wars from multiple groups representing political and ethnic minority groups and succeeding central governments. Due to conflict, the nation was under the military rule since 1962 until 2010, the situation which left the country to be among the least developed country (Cederman et al. 14). Despite the introduction of a new constitution 2008 and a democratic election in 2010, the military continues to hold significant power within the government (Topich et al. 11).
The country's culture is based on Buddhism or Hindu myths, the aspect which has been influenced by its neighboring countries like China and India (Topich et al. 16). Westernization and the presence of the British colonial rule have also profoundly changed many aspects of Burmese culture, including education and language. The country is characterized by diverse ethnic groups which has brought struggle for natural resources, territories, and self-determination among various ethnic groups (Topich et al. 17).
Since 1988, Myanmar has continued to expand its regional relationships (Topich et al. 17). Currently, the country is a member of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN), United Nations (UN), and World Trade Organization (WTO). Due to the above affiliation, the representatives of UN, EU and those from ASEAN have visited Myanmar (Vivian 2017).
As mentioned earlier, Myanmar has undergone various military coups in the 60s, 70s, and 80s (Topich et al. 26). The country maintained the name Burma until 1989 after an army coup led by General Saw Maung when the state changed its name to Myanmar (Topich et al. 27). The regime felt that the name Myanmar was more inclusive of the minority ethnic groups and cultures as opposed to Burma which was derived from one majority ethnic group (Topich et al. 28).
Rohingya crisis in 2015 refers to the mass migration of Rohingya people from Myanmar (Vivian 2017). Most of the refugees who fled the country sought refuge in countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Rohingya people are a minority Muslim group who lives in the western state of Rakhine in Myanmar. The regime does not acknowledge group as they were referred to as refugees from Bangladesh. As a result, the Rohingya people face a lot of hostility from the government as they are highly prosecuted (Vivian 2017). Therefore, it has led to mass migration to the neighboring states seeking refuge and other humanitarian support.
The international community responded to the incident by disapproving the “campaign of ethnic cleansing." Many countries who are members to United Nations primarily US and UK pledged to help the Rohingya refugees. Countries like the US even allowed people from the country into state. The UK government has promised to give out 47 million pounds to help in providing emergency services and supplies to the refugees (Vivian 2017). Even the British citizens contributed around 17 million pounds to improve on the menace (Vivian 2017).
As a diplomat and an international relations expert, engaging in a few steps which would help in ensuring there are no more refugees fleeing the country, and also warrant that neighboring states are as friendly is essential. First and foremost, urging the government of Myanmar to stop killing and prosecuting Rohingya people and also ensuring their rights are protected which includes right to settle and enjoy life in Myanmar is of essence (Misra 52). Secondly, ensuring engagement in international community including UN and ASEAN to take part in trying to mediate and negotiate with the government of Myanmar to eradicate all the discriminatory laws and allow the Rohingya people to remain in the country (Misra 54). Finally, encouraging the neighboring countries like India and Bangladesh to host the refugees, being friendly by offering all the humanitarian support as diplomat cohorts negotiate for a long-lasting solution (Misra 55).
Clearly, the level of ethnic division being witnessed in Myanmar traces its way back from the colonial era. Colonization brought division among the people leading to majority and minority groups in the country. The ongoing prosecution and elimination of Rohingya people is a human rights violation, and it should come to an end. Thus, the international community, humanitarian groups, and diplomats should aid in averting further crisis.
Cederman, Lars-Erik, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Halvard Buhaug. Inequality, grievances, and civil war. Cambridge University Press, 2013, pp. 10-19.
Keyes, Charles F., and Shigeharu Tanabe. Cultural crisis and social memory: Modernity and identity in Thailand and Laos. Routledge, 2013. pp. 21-38.
Misra, Amalendu. Politics of civil wars: conflict, intervention & resolution. Routledge, 2013, pp.51-58.
Topich, William J., and Keith A. Leitich. The history of Myanmar. ABC-CLIO, 2013, pp.5-35.
Vivian Tan. UNHCR report.“Over 168,000 Rohingya likely fled Myanmar since 2012”, UNHCR, The Refugee Agency, 03 May 2017