Exchange to Change January 2018 E2C January 2018 web | Page 7

What do you see as the underlying causes of the conflict ?
Aung : It is a very complex crisis , so it is not possible to pinpoint the exact underlying causes . There are many issues involved in this problem such as legacies of British colonialism , the successive military dictatorships , ethno-religious animosity , unequal distribution of development in the country , etc . Growing Buddhist nationalism is another factor driving the crisis . All in all , I consider that this crisis emerged along with the ongoing transition to democracy that started in 2011 , after more than five decades of military dictatorship . In any account , Rohingya populations should not be made scapegoats in any measures in the name of democratization or the military operations rooting out alleged Islamic terrorists .
In Myanmar , the Rohingya Muslims are often seen as ‘ illegal immigrants ’. How would you describe the perspective of the people of Bangladesh towards the Rohingya ?
Juel : The people of Bangladesh never support the idea that the Rohingya people are ‘ immigrants ’ to Myanmar . Despite being put forward since the 1970 ’ s , this idea is not supported by history . Cultural and economic exchanges between the people living in the Chittagong region of Bengal ( today ’ s Bangladesh ) and the Rakhine state of Myanmar started hundreds of years ago . Naturally , these exchanges might have been accompanied by human migration of people from Chittagong to the Rakhine state as well as from Arakan areas of Myanmar to the Chittagong Hill Tracts ( CHT ).
The Government of Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as its citizens ; let alone accepts their identity as ‘ Rohingyas ’. Rather , the Rohingyas are termed as Bengalis over there , possibly because the way the Rohingya people speak is similar to the local dialect of Chittagong and Cox ’ s Bazaar areas . However , this dialect has much dissimilarity with the mainstream Bengali language .
For the people of Bangladesh , the Government of Myanmar has been driven by a narrow political idea of building a nation state based on religion , which contrasts with the choice for a secular state in Bangladesh after the liberation war against Pakistan . The people of Bangladesh alongside the government clearly treat the forcefully displaced Rohingyas as Myanmar citizens .
People outside and inside Myanmar learn about the Rohingya conflict through local and international news coverage . Are there , according to you , differences between the national and the international news coverage ?
Aung : While the crisis is unfolding , two media framings dominate the narrative of this ethno-religious violence . The international media coverage mainly dwells on a human right discourse and politics of immediation , presenting a graphic description of the Rohingya victims and their dire plight .
Some local media , however , provoke anti-Rohingya sentiments in the country by associating them with alleged Islamisation in Myanmar and outlining the national founding narrative which excludes the Rohingya populations . Most local media abstain from covering the crisis , thus giving room to any alternative interpretations of conflict to the general populace . These two conflicting media framings do not paint the whole picture . Instead , they position different claims and legitimize certain aspects of this violent conflict . Furthermore , these framings widen the gap between public responses to the crisis and the dynamics of the conflict .
Since there is no substantial , balanced and accurate news coverage available to the audience in Myanmar , they rely on social media to get news and information on the Rakhine state crisis . Claims and counter-claims on the Rohingya crisis are abundant on social media in Myanmar . It is relevant to mention here how extreme Buddhist sects in the country have mobilized individual framings of social media users . These social media framings scratch the surface of the pre-existing cognitive schemes of many Buddhist populations . Also , the military and the government are spinning the information on social media based on their own stands . These collective anxieties curated by social media are creating the major denial of the existence of the Rohingya in the nation-state of Myanmar .
Besides , local audiences deem the international coverage biased towards / in favor of the Rohingya and therefore , do not accept certain information . Rather , they view it as ‘ meddling in internal affairs ’ and a threat to ‘ Burmese Buddhist identity and values ’.
To describe the Rohingya crisis , different concepts are used such as ‘ genocide ’ and ‘ ethnic cleansing ’. How would you describe the
Exchange to change January 2018