Traveling by taxi today I had an opportunity to talk with my Rakhine driver for an hour or so.
He and his family moved to Yangon 10 years ago. They left because of the fighting and danger in Rakhine state. He blames it all on the refugee influx from Bangladesh – the ‘bad people’ who have been fighting with the Rakhine ‘citizens’. He very much resents the presence of these refuges in HIS country. He was adamant that they do not belong here and should return to their own country.
When I mentioned that the Rohingya have been here for decades and also consider this to be their country, he was unmoved in his belief that they do not belong here.
It was a long hour’s ride. He kept repeating the same things over and over again. His English was sufficient enough for me to understand his thoughts, but he really wasn’t interested in a two-way conversation. He just wanted to vent his frustration and anger, all while laughing in an unsettling sort of way.
As a reality check, the estimated one million Rohingya in Myanmar account for nearly a third of Rakhine’s population. The Rohingya trace their origins in the region to the fifteenth century when thousands of Muslims came to the former Arakan Kingdom. Since independence in 1948, successive governments in Myanmar have refuted the Rohingya’s historical claims and denied the group recognition as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups. The Rohingya are largely identified as illegal Bengali immigrants, despite the fact that many Rohingya have resided in Myanmar for centuries. (www.cfr.org/burmamyanmar/rohingya-migrant-crisis/p36651)
The current atrocities being levied against the Rohingya are basic genocide. The government and Aung San Suu Kyi appear to be turning a deaf ear. Truthfully, I am not sure how to process the clueless rantings I heard today from my taxi driver.