Whitewashing a Genocide: Crisis in Myanmar Continues
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have now settled into various camps and communities in Bangladesh after being dislocated by Myanmar security forces. Having driven collectively over 900,000 Rohingyas out of the country since 2015, the Myanmar government is now attempting to erase its shameful legacy.
In recent months, Myanmar’s military forces have bulldozed 55 villages to rubble. By doing so, it appears that the government is attempting to destroy evidence of the crimes against humanity committed upon the Rohingya people.
This process of dislocation and “cleansing” has been used since the beginning of the genocide. Since August, over 300 villages and communities have been torched. As they disappear, so do ancestral homes, as well as hard evidence of the numerous atrocities reported by refugees.
Now, as the various intentions behind these attacks become clearer, so too does the narrative of misinformation being built online in Myanmar. Social media has become involved in various political scandals around the world recently, and now Myanmar’s government is attempting to use it to spread its own version of the truth.
Through networks of vigilantes, radical Buddhist groups, and government troll accounts, lies and whitewashed versions of the genocide are rapidly gaining traction in the country, raising further concerns about any hope of repatriation for the Rohingya.
Many of these online accounts and groups blame the Rohingya for their own plights, accusing them of manipulating the international community. Some even claim that the Rohingya were responsible for the burning of their own villages.
It is unclear how this misinformation can be contained. Southeast Asia has only recently experienced a technology and internet boom. While these technological developments create growth, it also exposes vulnerabilities, as millions of relatively unsavvy internet users are thrust into a world of “alternative facts.”
Many Rohingyas are currently trapped in the border regions between Bangladesh and Myanmar, while other refuse to leave Bangladesh without a guarantee of safety. As this propaganda campaign gains momentum, it becomes increasingly unclear how the Rohingya will return to their ancestral home.
Not only are Rohingyas being targeted by the violent radicals who support the genocide, but now they are also being “bleached out” of their own history. Some definite action must be taken if the Rohingya are to ever call Rakhine home again.