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Japan’s restrained response to the Rohingya issue

9 11 44

The plight of the Rohingya, a group of approximately one million Muslim people residing in Myanmar, grabbed constant headlines during the four last months of 2017. The Myanmar government regards the Rohingya, living in the Rakhine region bordering Bangladesh in the West of the country, as illegal immigrants and does not consider the people as one of the 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. Referred to as Bengali by the government, they have been the victims of religious violence on multiple occasions in the past, resulting in internal displacement and large-scale exodus (200,000 people by 1978, 250,000 in 1991-2, and 140,000 in 2012). However, whereas the level of global attention to these earlier instances of ethnic discrimination was rather limited, in late August 2017 international media started focussing on the Rohingya issue after a series of violent crackdowns by the Myanmar military that resulted in allegations of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

International scrutiny of the crisis is much higher at present compared to the past for several reasons. First and most obviously, there is the sheer scale of the current crisis and the human suffering it entails. Up to 600,000 Rohingya are said to have fled across Myanmar’s border into Bangladesh, where they remain trapped in refugee camps, in addition to thousands of internally-displaced people in the Rakhine region. The 2017 Rohingya crisis flared up after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a recently created militant insurgent group, conducted a series of violent attacks on government police posts, which resulted in large-scale retaliation actions by the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Armed Forces, that went beyond the ARSA insurgent group and affected Rohingya villages.

Global attention to the plight of the Muslim minority is also much higher because Myanmar’s widely lauded process of political reform and democratization,........

© Japan Today