The Worsening Rohingya Crisis Is Creating a Dangerous New Reality in Myanmar

The Worsening Rohingya Crisis Is Creating a Dangerous New Reality in Myanmar
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside Yangon’s City Hall for her speech on the Rohingya crisis, Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 19, 2017 (Photo by Eli Meixler).

YANGON, Myanmar—The crowd waiting for Aung San Suu Kyi’s highly anticipated address on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine, in western Myanmar, looked prepared for a pep rally, rather than a requiem on a conflict labeled “textbook ethnic cleansing.” On Tuesday morning, hundreds of people gathered in front of Yangon’s City Hall to watch a live broadcast of the first speech that Myanmar’s de facto leader has given since the military’s bloody counterinsurgency began in response to attacks from Rohingya militants last month.

Yet the crowd’s euphoria all but eclipsed the somber topic at hand. Observers in shirts emblazoned with Aung San Suu Kyi’s face and holding placards that spelled out their support clapped, danced and chanted her name. When the Nobel laureate appeared, they released a flurry of red balloons.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech was expected to reckon with international fury that has escalated every day since the Muslim Rohingya began fleeing into Bangladesh, bearing accounts of indiscriminate violence suffered at the hands of security forces and Buddhist vigilantes. Before she spoke, Western diplomats and U.N. officials had lobbied for a bold condemnation of alleged military atrocities in the hopes of putting an end to an unprecedented exodus that has created more than 420,000 refugees, more than half of them children, in less than 30 days.

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