Recently, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to declare the official position of the United States on the atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
The Rohingya, historically called the Arakanese Indians, are a stateless group of people in Myanmar. The majority are Muslims. Under the 1982 Myanmar Nationality Laws the Rohingya people are denied citizenship. In 2013 the United Nations described the Rohingya people as the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Last year the Huffington Post published an article titled: The Rohingya are at the brink of mass genocide. It was written by Dr. Azeem Ibrahim, author of the book, The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide. Dr. Ibrahim said, “With these people so widely reviled by the Buddhist nationalist… There is no time to lose! Our leaders must force the federal government of Myanmar to intervene and reestablish order now! Before we have another Rwanda on our hands.”
But Secretary of State Tillerson announced, “After careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear the situation… Constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.”
So what’s the distinction between ethnic cleansing and genocide?
It’s hard to pinpoint the originators of the term “ethnic cleansing” but the term gained widespread acceptance due to its frequent use by journalists during the Yugoslav Wars that began in 1991. It appears “ethnic cleansing” is defined as a “systematic attempt by one political or socio-religious group to remove a particular ethnic or religious group from a specific area through coercive means. It includes both forced migrations as well as brutal killings to terrorize a minority population and force them to leave a particular territory.”