In 2017, Myanmar's military launched a campaign of widespread targeted violence against its Rohingya minority. The horrific atrocities was later described by United Nations experts as genocide. This had been building since 2012, when earlier ethnic violence erupted between Buddhists and Muslims in Western Myanmar. These very grave incidents leading to the deaths and also the flight of thousands of Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh was the most concentrated exodus of people since the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. In Myanmar's Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of the Muslim 'Other' (Zed Books, 2017, 2019), Francis Wade identifies the underlying causes which flamed division, segregation and resulted in a horrific loss of life and violence. Wade explores how the manipulations by a ruling elite turned prompted neighbours to take up arms against neighbour, by politicising ethnic identity.
The crisis is contextualised in the legacy of British colonialism which calcified the previously fluid dynamics of cultural groups across the country.The military junta is shown to have exploited these divisions in its campaign which targeted the Rohingya minority. In the period of extreme violence, Wade draws out how the U.N., and more broadly, how Western backers of the apparent political transition to democratisation contemporaneously ignored the unfolding situation. Through his on-the-ground accounts, Wade explores how citizens experiencing rights and freedoms unseen for half a century, under a much lauded civilian leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi, became complicit in this humanitarian catastrophe.
Francis Wade is a journalist specialising in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. He began reporting on Myanmar in 2009 and went on to cover in-depth the transition from military rule and the violence which accompanied it. He has reported for The Guardian, The London Review of Books, TIME, New York Review of Books and more.
Jane Richards is a doctoral student at the University of Hong Kong. You can find her on twitter where she follows all things related to human rights and Hong Kong politics @JaneRichardsHK
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