The Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar has long been deemed one of the world’s most persecuted minorities, its plight called a “most urgent matter” by President Obama. Episodes of sectarian violence drove the Rohingya from their homes, leaving more than 100,000 in squalid camps for the displaced. Restricted in how they travel and denied educational opportunities, they are the outcasts in majority-Buddhist Myanmar, also known as Burma. Many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations, yet they are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and West Bengal. And most in effect have been denied citizenship because they can’t meet the nearly impossible standard set by law.
To be sure, Myanmar is a fragile democracy in which civilian officials must share power with the military. Forging this new government requires Suu Kyi and her party to move the country toward democracy while also maintaining the military leaders’ cooperation. To the new government’s credit, it moved quickly to release almost 200 political prisoners and other detainees.