In January, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who escaped ethnic violence in Myanmar were supposed to begin a repatriation process back to the country they fled. The refugees are currently sheltering in over-crowded camps inside neighboring Bangladesh.
With monsoon season fast approaching, concerns are growing that the soon to be rain and mud-soaked camps will become breeding grounds for uncontrollable disease. The effect will be to worsen an already dire situation for the Rohingya and create further challenges for those trying to provide humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya Want Safety Assurances
But, as a recent New York Times article points out, many Rohingya are not prepared to return to Myanmar until they receive assurances that they will be safe. An estimated 6,700 Rohingya have been killed in a campaign of attacks by government forces and others that the U.S. State Department classifies as ethnic cleansing.
The Times story points out, “The continuing refusal by Myanmar’s authorities to acknowledge any atrocities against Rohingya civilians worries many of those sheltering in Bangladesh.”
Recent comments by a prominent religious leader in the Buddhist-majority country added to the atmosphere of hostility toward the minority Rohingya Muslim population.
Did Speech Endorse Killings?
During a speech broadcast live across Myanmar, Sitagu Sayadaw expressed what many critics believe was a veiled endorsement of the government’s pattern of violence toward non-Buddhists.
He shared a parable about an ancient king who was assured by Buddhist clerics that the countless Hindus he had killed only added up to one and a half lives. “Don’t worry King, it’s a little bit of sin. Don’t worry,” Sitagu Sayadaw said. “Even though you killed millions of people, they were only one and a half real human beings.”
Click here for the full New York Times article: Will the Rohingya Ever Return Home?