Myanmar struggles to digest global anger over Rohingya crisis
Desk report: Baffled, hurt or indignant, many inside Myanmar are struggling to digest a week of opprobrium heaped on their country by the UN and even Facebook over the treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim group whose plight elicits little sympathy in the Buddhist-majority nation, reports the daily star.
Last year’s military crackdown ostensibly on Rohingya militants pushed out some 700,000 of the minority in violence that horrified the world.
But in Myanmar, the army was widely cheered for its defence of the country from “Bengali” interlopers — as the Rohingya are falsely cast.
A UN report on Monday pulled few punches in calling for the army chief’s prosecution for genocide against the Rohingya and singled out Myanmar’s democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to speak up for the group.
Yet the public response has been muted on an issue warped by Islamophobic rhetoric and the rehashed history peddled by the military. “We were happy to fight the military for democracy but we don’t want to fight them over Rakhine,” shipowner Kyaw Kyaw, 47, told AFP, from a Yangon teashop.
“I have sympathy for the victims but defending our country from terrorism is more important,” he added, parroting the official line that the army “clearance operations” were justified to root out Rohingya militants.
Myanmar’s evolution from military rule to a quasi-democracy in 2011 brought with it freedoms unknown for nearly half a century.
Even so, most people still rely for information on state media, Facebook or a fledgling independent media that mostly toes the government line when it comes to the Rohingya.
There are signs that politics is again becoming taboo, as patriotism and a deep mistrust of a still-powerful army dull criticism.
At the same time a siege mentality is building in a country that felt the glow of global support just a few years ago as its story of triumph over authoritarianism captured the headlines.
“I feel sad the world is looking down upon Myanmar people,” says traditional doctor Than Sein, 50, from a neighbouring teashop table, remembering how Buddhists and Muslims used to eat at each other’s houses and lamenting they no longer do so.
Suu Kyi, still a heroine domestically, articulated the mood.
“We who are living through the transition in Myanmar view it differently from those who observe it from the outside and who will remain untouched by its outcome,” she said this week in a speech in Singapore.