Things You Can’t Say in Burma

Burmese newspaper “Voice of Arakan” has been informed by the government that its English name must be changed to “Voice of Rakhine”.

Arakan state was renamed Rakhine by the military junta in 1989. Situated on the border with Bangladesh, it is home to the majority of Burma’s beleaguered Rohingya minority. Since 2012, attacks on the Muslim Rohingya by Buddhist Arakanese have displaced approximately 140,000 people.

“Rohingya” is of course already a banned term in Burma, whose government does not admit to their existence. Recently, extremist monk Wirathu excoriated UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee, calling her a “bitch” and a “whore” for speaking on Rohingya rights. (He’s not sorry.)

Now the name of their home has also become politicized. The editor of the newspaper (already named “Voice of Rakhine” in Burmese) says that the English name will not change. But journalists in Burma have little protection from the government, and if pressure escalates, he may have no choice.

Kate Cronin-Furman

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