Religious Intolerance in Myanmar

Along the Bay of Bengal and wrapping around the Andaman Sea is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. It is home to 54 million, with 135 ethnicities. In 2017, there were widespread, well-planned, coordinated and violent attacks against the Rohingya perpetrated by the Burmese military. The military violence continues today and earlier this month extended to the Christian population with the bombing of a Baptist seminary.

Following the last coup d’etat the term Tatmadaw, which in Burmese means “Royal Armed Forces,” came into use to describe the current military in Myanmar, it was also the name used for the pre-colonial Burma ruled by a monarchy. Tatmadaw is considered by some Burmese not only incorrect but offensive. They believe the word is too good for Min Aung Hlaing’s army, which is just a group of armed men killing their own people, so there is nothing “royal” about the actions of the present-day Myanmar military.

Following the violence against the Rohingya, which is a minority who are largely Muslim living in the state of Rakhine, Rohingya fled the country en masse. In just two areas of Bangladesh, some 943,000 are taking refuge. One refugee camp, the Kutupalong-Balukhali Expansion Site, hosts more than 635,000 refugees.

In March 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially declared that the violent attacks on the Rohingya are a genocide. In those remarks, he said, “While today’s determination of genocide and crimes against humanity is focused on Rohingya, it’s also important to recognize that for decades the Burmese military has committed killings, rape, and other atrocities against members of other ethnic and religious minority groups. Reports of these abuses are widespread; they’re well documented. They’ve occurred in states across Burma. That history, and the determination we’re making today, are fundamental to understanding Burma’s current crisis.”

Following the declaration of the genocide, a case was filed in the International Court of Justice against Myanmar, and the U.S. and other nations are working to bring accountability to the government for its heinous acts.