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The Rohingya are one of several ethnic minorities in Myanmar. They represent the largest group of Muslims in the country, and mostly live in Rakhine state. As an ethnic group, they have lived in the region for many generations. At the start of 2017 there were estimated to be 1 million. Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country which does not recognise the Rohingya as a people and instead sees them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh. At various intervals, and throughout the past decades, there have been outbursts of violence towards them, which has led many of them to flee Myanmar.
The latest migrations were in the summer of 2017, when the press made their plight known to the world. Various NGOs and human rights organisations (Médecins sans Frontières, Amnesty International, etc) have stated that some 6,700 Rohingyas including children under the age of five, were killed in the outbreak of violence. According to the UNHCR, over 723,000 have fled to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017, often arriving exhausted, hungry and sick, having crossed jungles, mountains and the dangerous waters in the Bay of Bengal .
The panel wants to discuss the history of the current situation regarding the Rohingya, look at what is happening today and what the future holds for the ‘lost generations’ of children who have been displaced. There is also the question of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the various awards she received in the past, including the Honorary Doctorate the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) bestowed on her in 1994. In November 2017, there was a student-led petition calling for this award to be revoked.
The panel discussion on 12 November will be opened by prof. dr. Caroline Pauwels, Rector of the VUB. The panel itself will consist of the following speakers: Delphine Drapeau, Regional Protection Officer at the UNHCR, Wies De Graeve, Director of Amnesty International Belgium (Flemish section), and Marie-France Bourgeois, Senior Adviser Humanitarian Affairs with UNICEF. The moderator will be the Editor-in-Chief of MO magazine, Gie Goris. The focus will be on the past, present and future of the issue, but also to look at the international action or reaction to the situation, and how various bodies handle the awards given to Aung San Suu Kyi in the past, in light of present circumstances.
Everyone is welcome to join the discussion and people are encouraged to send in any questions in advance, during the registration process.