Jul. 23 – Even as the world smiles benignly at the democratic opening up of Myanmar and the extended foreign tour of its Leader of the Opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s complex domestic dynamic, hidden for years, has surfaced. The spillover of the sectarian violence that began in early June has simultaneously exposed the difficulties of democratization and the plight of Myanmar’s many underprivileged ethnic minorities.
The clashes between Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population – backed by the border security force, the Nasaka – and the 800,000-strong Rohingya Muslim community, locally referred to as Bengalis, highlights the issue. The violence is the culmination of nearly half a century of government-sanctioned discrimination against the Rohingyas who are not accepted or recognized as Myanmarese citizens. They aren’t the only ones. Almost never discussed is the plight of third and fourth generation Indian and Chinese immigrants who have lived in Myanmar for decades but, like the Rohingyas, are considered illegal settlers.