Social media 'hate speech' aggravating Rohingya crisis: US official

Hate speech and misinformation on social media have amplified ethnic tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine state, a US official said Friday.

Published: 22nd September 2017 05:21 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd September 2017 05:21 PM   |  A+A-

The 1.1-million-strong Rohingya have suffered years of discrimination in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship even though many have longstanding roots in the country. (Photo | AP)


SITTWE: Hate speech and misinformation on social media have amplified ethnic tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine state, a US official said Friday, urging the country's "better angels" to show compassion for Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing violence in droves.

Western Rakhine, for years a hotbed of tension between Myanmar's Rohingya minority and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, has been seized by crisis since the army launched a crackdown on Rohingya militants in late August.

The operation has been so sweeping and brutal that the UN says it likely amounts to "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya, nearly 430,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh in under one month. 

The once 1.1-million strong group are denied citizenship in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and widely viewed as foreign invaders from Bangladesh, a narrative pushed by army chief Min Aung Hlaing in regular Facebook posts. 

After a three-day visit to Myanmar, including a stop in Rakhine's state capital Sittwe, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy called on community leaders to condemn hate speech cascading across the web in the former junta-run nation.

"One of the newer factors adding to the complexities (in Rakhine) is the platform that social media now offers. There is a lot of hate speech, there is a lot of misinformation," Murphy told media in a telephone briefing.

He urged the "better angels" of the Myanmar people to find empathy for the Rohingya.

"What we are doing is appealing to the many, many populations in Burma... to remember their own experience and show some compassion regardless of the political complexities for the Rohingya people," Murphy said. 

The lines of frail and traumatised Rohingya streaming into Bangladesh have overwhelmed aid agencies and triggered alarm from world leaders, with ramshackle camps along the border swelling into one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. 

But there have been few expressions of sympathy for the Rohingya inside Myanmar, despite a shared history of abuse under the former military dictatorship.

Many in the Buddhist majority blame Rohingya militants for triggering the unrest in Rakhine and accuse foreign media and NGOs of a pro-Rohingya bias.

The latest violence -- and outpouring of global condemnation -- has seen a remarkable shift in domestic political alliances, with nationalist fervour driving those who once reviled the military to come to its defence over the Rakhine campaign.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp