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Myanmar’s social media reaction to the Rohingya crisis

  • Published at 09:47 pm September 7th, 2017
Myanmar’s social media reaction to the Rohingya crisis
While social media reaction to violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar has overwhelmingly been in favour of Rohingya refugees, comments by alleged Myanmar nationals have generally been in opposition to claims of abuse by the Myanmar military. Instead, the social media reaction from people claiming to be Myanmar nationals generally hold the position that the Rohingyas are actively participating in militant attacks on security officials and civilians in the conflict-ridden area. Some even welcome the flight of the Rohingyas to Bangladesh, branding them as Bengali terrorists. In one such Facebook comment, posted in response to the Dhaka Tribune report “Myanmar’s Suu Kyi denounces terrorists, silent on Rohingya exodus,” Sin Thu, whose account states that he is a student of Dagon University in Yangon, criticises Bangladesh as “not a good neighbour,” claiming that support offered to the Rohingya is support for “terrorists and illegal immigrants.” Similarly, a Facebook comment by Maung Maung Thein San, who is allegedly a student of BEHS school in Min-Ywa, Myanmar, on the report “Breaking Buthidaung: The second chapter in the Rakhine conflict” reads that “Rohingya are not Burmese,” claiming they entered Myanmar illegally from Bangladesh. The post further claims that Rohingya speak in a Bangali dialect, dress in Bangali clothes and eat Bangali food. Furthermore, comments by a Dolly Lun Pum on the reports “What does the Rohingya crisis look like in Myanmar newspapers?” and “Turkish First Lady visits Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar” say that reports of abuses by the military against the Rohingya “are fuelled by Muslim extremists and the media” and that Bangali’s led by ARSA terrorists are trying to invade the Rakhine state. Dolly’s Facebook account states that she studied at BEHS (2) Latha school in Yangon, Myanmar. One of the only social media comments from those claiming to be Myanmar nationals that speaks in favour of the Rohingya was posted in response to the report “EU condemns Myanmar’s ongoing violence against Rohingyas.” In his post, Hla Tin urges that the UN be sent to aid the Rohingya, as condemnation alone is insufficient to stop the violence against them. Hla Tin states on his Facebook profile that he had worked at the European Rohingya Council (ERC), studied Geology at Rangoon Arts and Science University, and hails from Maungdaw in the Rakhine State. Hla also mentions that he currently resides in Denmark. Though these social media reactions suggest that the people of Myanmar themselves are predominantly against the Rohingya, believing that they are Muslim terrorists, it should be noted that there is little proof to verify the identity of the commentators. Indeed, other than Hla Tin,all of the other commentators gave extremely little information on their Facebook profiles other than the name of their educational institution. This begs the question: why would people try to contradict the tales of horror we have received first hand from Rohingya refugees?
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