On Tuesday, September 26th, the House met for an emergency debate on the situation in Myanmar. Elizabeth May made several interventions, which you can read about here.
Below you will find information on how this crisis began and what you can do to help.
Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country of 51.5 million people in Southeast Asia. The country has a tumultuous history of colonial occupation, civil war, and military dictatorship. In 2015, the country’s first democratically-elected leader, the freedom fighter and now Nobel Peace Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, took office.
The Rohingya are a minority Muslim population in Myanmar, numbering over 1 million people. The government and military powers have systematically denied the Rohingyas’ basic human rights to clean water, education, healthcare, and food security. This is premised on a false classification of this group as stateless Bengali Muslims, in spite of documentation of their existence in the area of modern-day Rakhine State going back to 1799. Nonetheless, the Rohingya were excluded from the 1982 Citizenship Laws. Without a state to recognize them as citizens and therefore as rights-bearing individuals, the Rohingya have fallen prey to political whims and social prejudice.
Scapegoating this community has become a popular mechanism for political parties to consolidate power. Thus the Rohingya have suffered unrelenting brutality at the hands of the state police and military officials, who act with impunity. Conditions of extreme deprivation are ripe for radicalisation. Frustrated and without the means to protest politically, groups of militant Rohingya have lashed out violently. But always the police state retaliates with overwhelming force.
Further Reading: Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar by Penny Green, Thomas MacManus and Alicia de la Cour Venning (International State Crime Initiative, 2015)
What’s Happening Now
On August 25th, the Arakhan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant group, attacked an army base in northern Myanmar. The response from Myanmar’s army, police, and mobs of ethnic Rakhine is and has been a total massacre. Villages have been burned, Rohingya shot at, infants beheaded, rape weaponized. As of this Thursday, 480 000 have fled across the border to Bangladesh, doubling the Rohingya refugee population there in one month. It is estimated that more than 500 000 Rohingya are still in Myanmar. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi has either dismissed the reports as fake news or branded the Arakhan Rohingya Salvation Army as a terrorist group against which military force was justified.
What You Can Do
Contact your MP
Write or call your MP. Ask them what they will do to help. Request that they consider Elizabeth’s three proposals:
- Canada can offer military assistance, expertise and financial support for removing landmines. Visit the International Campaign to Ban Landmines for more information.
- Clear the way for NGO’s and civil society organizations to get in on the ground and provide assistance, food, and medicine on the Bangladeshi side of the border.
- Pressure Aung San Suu Ky as an honorary Canadian citizen to stand up for the human rights of all people, including and especially the targeted Muslim minority in Myanmar.
Islamic Relief Canada and Islamic Circle of North America’s Canadian chapter are the only Canadian aid agencies to have gained access to the crisis on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Read about their work with the Rohingya here.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are among the world’s oldest and most respected humanitarian organizations. They welcome donations of both time and funds.
The International Rescue Committee does incredible work with refugees around the world.
Fortify Rights works to prevent and remedy human rights violations by documenting abuses and providing customized technical support to human rights defenders on the ground.
The Nexus Group have made the Rohingya a high priority.