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2017/2018: Issue 2

A monthly current events resource for Canadian classrooms

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Page 2 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya
– Persecuted in Myanmar and Nowhere to Go

The United Nations (UN) calls the Most of the refugees have fled to century when their Indian, Chinese,
Rohingya of Myanmar the world’s Bangladesh. Others have taken to and Arab ancestors migrated to the
most persecuted people – and dangerous seas in hopes of reaching region. Many were also encouraged
recent events seem to support this Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. to move there from surrounding
description. However, these neighbouring countries by the British after that
countries have been reluctant to take nation took control of the region early
Since late August, the Rohingya have
the Rohingya in, fearing that they in the 19th century.
been running for their lives, trying
won’t be able to cope with the influx.
to escape government security forces A stateless people
Bangladesh, for instance, already hosts
who are burning their villages and The Rohingya believe they have a
750,000 Rohingya refugees, many
shooting their people. At least 400 right to live in Myanmar in peace, yet
of whom left Myanmar before this
Rohingya have died in the violence, the government refuses to recognize
current crisis began.
while more than 400,000 have them as one of the country’s 135 ethnic
streamed out of Myanmar on foot. Who are the Rohingya? groups. It considers them to be foreign,
According to the government, nearly Most Rohingya are Muslims living illegal migrants of Bengali origin. So,
200 Rohingya villages – about 30 in largely Buddhist Myanmar. Before it restricts their ability to study, work,
percent of the total in the Southeast this latest exodus, about 1.1 million travel, marry, practice their religion,
Asian nation – have been emptied by Rohingya made up about one-third and access health services.
“clearance operations.” of the population of Rakhine State on
The Rohingya are also banned from
“The situation seems a textbook Myanmar’s northwest coast.
voting, and were stripped of Myanmar
example of ethnic cleansing,” said the Scholars say the Rohingya have lived citizenship in 1982. That means that
top human rights official at the UN. in Myanmar since at least the 12th they can’t get passports – and that
Bengali: a major ethnic and linguistic group in South Asia muslim: someone who follows or practices Islam, a monotheistic
BuddhisT: of or relating to a religion of eastern and central Abrahamic religion. Muslims consider the Quran, their holy
Asia growing out of the teaching of Siddhārtha Gautama that book, to be the word of God as revealed to the Islamic prophet
suffering is inherent in life and that one can be liberated from it and messenger Muhammad.
by cultivating wisdom, virtue, and concentration persecute: to subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment,
ethnic cleansing: the mass expulsion or killing of members especially because of race or political or religious beliefs
of an unwanted ethnic or religious group in a society. United Nations: an international organization formed in
influx: a large number of people or things coming to a 1945 to increase political and economic cooperation among
particular place 193 member-countries. The UN works on economic and social
migrant: someone who travels to a different place or country in development programs, improving human rights and reducing
order to live there global conflicts.

Page 3 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya
– Persecuted in Myanmar and Nowhere to Go
they are the largest stateless group in Ms. Suu Kyi, who came to power in
the world. November 2015, spent most of her Myanmar
time from 1989 to 2010 under house The Southeast Asian nation of
A history of persecution
arrest for trying to bring democracy Myanmar, also known as Burma, has a
Discrimination against the Rohingya to Myanmar, which was then ruled by population of nearly 53 million people.
has gone on since at least since 1948 the military. It is bordered by Bangladesh, Thailand,
when Myanmar – then known as
She faced down soldiers pointing India, Laos, and China, and is about
Burma – gained independence from
guns directly at her – and her efforts the size of Alberta.
Britain. Why? Partly because they’re
different. The Rohingya’s culture, paid off in 2012 when the military Previously an independent kingdom,
language, and religion set them apart allowed, for the first time, mostly-free Myanmar was annexed by the British
from the majority of the population. elections. She was even given honorary Empire in 1886. Japan invaded and
Lack of money and underdevelopment Canadian citizenship and awarded occupied the country during World
play a role, too. According to the the Nobel Prize for peace because War II, but it was returned to British
World Bank, more than 78 percent judges said she represented “an control until independence in 1948.
of households in Rakhine State live outstanding example of the power of
the powerless.” The military ran the country between
below the poverty line. The majority
1962 and 2011. During this time,
population resents competing for Yet Ms. Suu Kyi has refused to side the generals in control inflicted
scarce resources with this minority. with the Rohingya. Instead, she claims human rights abuses and turned the
tensions escalate her government is defending all the international community against
people of Rakhine, and that she is them. However, in recent years they
Over the decades, the discrimination
the victim of “fake news”. Security have gradually let go of some power,
has worsened, and since the 1970s,
forces are not targeting civilians, her making it possible for Aung San Suu
vigilantes and Myanmar government
government says, but rather a group Kyi to rule.
security forces have frequently
of terrorists that claim to protect the
attacked the Rohingya.
Rohingya but are actually militants around the world spoke out strongly
In 2012, after ethnic riots killed wanting to create an Islamic state. against her refusal to support the
hundreds of Rohingya and forced Rohingya.
“We know very well, more than most,
more than 140,000 others into squalid
what it means to be deprived of human For his part, UN Secretary-General
camps, some Rohingya decided to
rights and democratic protection,” Antonio Guterres called for the
fight back. They formed the Arakan
her government said in a statement, government to “end the military
Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and
adding that many photographs that operations, allow unhindered
trained as militants.
seem to show the suffering of the humanitarian access and recognize
On August 25, ARSA attacked police Rohingya are “simply the tip of a huge the right of refugees to return in safety
posts, killing 12 officers. It was iceberg of misinformation calculated and dignity.”
the second attack in a year by this to create a lot of problems... with the
resistance group, and it sparked the aim of promoting... terrorists.” “[Myanmar] must also address the
current fierce response from security grievances of the Rohingya, whose
Stinging criticism status has been left unresolved for far
forces and civilian mobs.
Analysts agree that it would be too long,” he said. J
Aung San Suu Kyi politically difficult for Ms. Suu Kyi
In the midst of this violence, the world to denounce the crackdown on
has been looking to Myanmar leader the Rohingya because her civilian
Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up for the government has no authority over
Rohingya. the powerful military. Still, countries

annex: to take control of a country or region by force squalid: dirty, run-down, and repulsive
house arrest: confinement often under guard to one’s house vigilante: someone who tries to catch and punish criminals by
or quarters instead of in prison themselves, without waiting for the police

Page 4 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya
– Persecuted in Myanmar and Nowhere to Go

Answer the following in complete sentences:

1. What is the population of Myanmar?

2. List at least four other important facts about this country.

3. How long have the Rohingya lived in this country?

4. How many Rohingya lived in the northern part of Myanmar before the current crisis?

5. Explain why this ethnic group has faced discrimination and persecution over the decades.

6. Describe how Myanmar’s government sees the Rohingya. What restrictions have been imposed on this ethnic group?

7. What happened in 2012? What did some Rohingya do as a result?

8. What did members of this militant group do in late August?

9. How did the government respond to these attacks? Describe what happened to many Rohingya.

10. Where did most of the Rohingya go?

Page 5 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya
– Persecuted in Myanmar and Nowhere to Go
Many of the world’s problems today can be traced back to decisions made by colonial powers like Britain and France. But
what exactly is colonialism? What other countries besides Britain and France established colonies? What explanations can
you offer for this behaviour? In your opinion, what responsibility (if any) do these one-time rulers of now-troubled lands
still have? Explain.


1. Consider the following quote: “The bottom line is this, moral authority is one thing. He who controls the barrel of the
gun in Myanmar is another.” (former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd)
a) As you see it, what is Mr. Rudd saying about the current situation in Myanmar? Explain.
b) In your opinion, can a nation be a true democracy if the military is not controlled by elected civilians?
2. What if... you were not a citizen of any country?
3. In what ways might poverty fuel hatred and violence? Explain.
4. a) Bangladesh is a poor nation. As you see it, what is Bangladesh’s responsibility to the Rohingya refugees? What is the
world’s responsibility?
b) If you were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, how would you respond to the Rohingya refugee crisis? Explain.
5. a) What is your understanding of the term ‘genocide’? Use a dictionary to help you define this term, if necessary.
b) What evidence is there in the article that supports the view that the Myanmar government is committing genocide?
What evidence refutes this view? Explain.
6. Imagine that you are Aung San Suu Kyi, writing in your journal about the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar. What
are your inner thoughts about this crisis? How do they compare with your outer actions? Explain.
7. An old adage says One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. What is your understanding of this adage? As you
see it, how might this adage relate to the situation in Myanmar? Explain.
8. ARSA has done more harm to the Rohingya than good by turning to violence. Do you agree or disagree with this
statement? Give reasons to support your response.

Note: The links below are listed at www.lesplan.com/en/links for easy access.
1. Read “Myanmar Follows Global Pattern in How Ethnic Cleansing Begins” from the New York Times at
2. Watch (and fact check) Aung San Suu Kyi’s statement at
3. Read a Vox explainer of the crisis at
4. Learn more about the ARSA at
5. See a Child Wellbeing snapshot of Rakhine State from UNICEF at
https://www.unicef.org/myanmar/Rakhine_State_Profile_Final.pdf J

Page 6 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya
– Persecuted in Myanmar and Nowhere to Go
Imagine that you are an investigative reporter interviewing the person in this scene. Generate two powerful questions
to ask in your interview. (A powerful question is not easy to answer, is specific to the situation, is open-ended and requires
further research.) Then, record plausible answers – those that are most likely to be given, believable, and supported by
evidence in the image.

A Rohingya woman baths her child near a tent at Tangkhali, Ukhiya, Bangladesh, 17 September 2017. (EPA/ABIR ABDULLAH)

Prepared with assistance from TC2 , The Critical Th inking Consortium. © 2017

Page 7 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

Editorial Cartoon
The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya
– Persecuted in Myanmar and Nowhere to Go

Examine the editorial cartoon. Then, use the questions below to help you decode the cartoon’s message. Be specific and
include as many details as possible in your answers. Note: Background information on what editorial cartoons are and
what techniques cartoonists use is available for download at www.lesplan.com/en/subscribers
Initial reading: What can an initial look reveal?
1. Glance quickly at the cartoon. What is your first impression – your “gut response”?
2. Consider your background knowledge. What do you already know about the context of the cartoon – the time, place or
situation? (List key facts.)
Closer look: What’s happening in the cartoon?
3. Find labels. How do the words (or numbers) in the drawing express ideas or identify people or objects? What message
do the labels send?
4. Identify the symbols. What do these signs or images represent? How do they add to the message of the cartoon?
5. Look at the composition. Where are figures or objects located or arranged in the cartoon? What message does this send
about their importance?
6. Consider the action in the cartoon. What is happening? Describe what you see.
Draw conclusions: What overall impression can you draw?
7. Identify possible biases. Whose perspective or point of view is expressed in the cartoon?
8. Explain the overall message of the cartoon in a paragraph. (Remember, a good interpretation is specific and detailed.) J
Prepared with assistance from TC2 , The Critical Th inking Consortium. © 2017

Page 8 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

Map Assignment
Complete this map assignment to better understand the article The Desperate Plight of the Rohingya.
1. Obtain the required resources and read all the instructions before starting.
2. Colour your map after all labelling is completed.
3. Print in pencil only first, then go over the printing in black ink.
4. Work carefully and neatly.
Resources Required: pencil, black pen, pencil crayons, ruler, eraser and an atlas.
Part A Locate and label the following countries in large CAPITAL letters and shade each as indicated:
Nepal (purple) Bhutan (orange)
Bangladesh (yellow) Myanmar (green)
Laos (yellow) Thailand (orange)
Cambodia (brown) Vietnam (purple)

Part B Locate and label the capital city of each country and underline each city name.

Part C Locate and label the following countries in CAPITAL letters and shade each as indicated:

India (pink) China (red)

Part D Locate and label the Andaman Islands (India).

Part E Locate and label the following cities:

Yangon (Rangoon) Mandalay

Bago Taunggyi
Monywa Meiktila

Part F Draw and label the following rivers and shade them light blue:

Ganges Brahmaputra
Irrawaddy Mekong
Yangtze (Chang Jiang)

Part G Locate and label the following and shade all ocean water dark blue:

Indian Ocean Bay of Bengal

Gulf of Martaban Andaman Sea
Gulf of Thailand Gulf of Tonkin (Tongking)

Part H Draw and label the Tropic of Cancer (23o N).

Part I Complete your map with a frame, title and compass. J


Page 9 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

0 100 200 300 400 500 Kilometres
Write the letter that corresponds to the best answer on the line beside each question:
______ 1. Which religion do most Rohingya in Myanmar practice?
a) Buddhism b) Christianity
c) Islam d) Hinduism
e) Judaism
______ 2.How many Rohingya have left Myanmar in recent weeks?
a) 125,000 b) 250,000
c) 400,000 d) 750,000
e) 1.1 million
______ 3. To which country did most of these people escape to?
a) Bangladesh b) China
c) Thailand d) India
e) Laos
______ 4. True or False? The military ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 2011.
______ 5. True or False? Aung San Suu Kyi is speaking out in support of the Rohingya..
6. Would you consider the ARSA to be a terrorist organization or a group of freedom fighters? Why? Explain.

Page 11 What in the world? • Le vel 2 • article issue 2

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