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Taking a Stand, for a Name

Rohingya refugees wait to be let through a border crossing into Bangladesh, October 2017. (Reuters / Zohra Bensemra)

Since October 2017, a network in Burma has been carrying programming from Radio Free Asia. RFA is an American news service. Now the Burmese government has told the network that it must stop carrying RFA programming, if RFA insists on using the word “Rohingya.” It does, so RFA programming will no longer be carried by the network.

The Rohingyas, as you know, are the people from western Burma who have been persecuted in the most horrific ways. I wrote about it in February (here). Let me give a relevant excerpt:

They are even denied their very name. The government wants you to call them “Bengalis,” not “Rohingyas.” The government views them as immigrants and squatters from Bangladesh.

At the end of November, Pope Francis went to Burma and carefully avoided the word “Rohingya.” This pained many of his supporters because he had freely spoken of the Rohingyas before. But things were different in Bangladesh, his next stop, where he talked with Rohingya refugees. “We won’t close our hearts or look away,” he said. “The presence of God today is also called ‘Rohingya.’”

The president of Radio Free Asia, Libby Liu, made a statement (and bear in mind that Burma is also called “Myanmar”): “By forbidding the use of the word ‘Rohingya,’ Myanmar’s government is taking an Orwellian step in seeking to erase the identity of a people whose existence it would like to deny.”

Yes, that is true. To read an RFA press release, go here. And Americans should be proud to be associated with such an outfit.

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