September 2017


In this lesson, students will:

  • Learn more about the Rohingya people of Myanmar and the current conflict.
  • Read and analyze personal accounts from numerous Rohingya people about their experiences.
  • Read and analyze excerpts from the Myanmar government’s response to criticism related to the conflict.
  • Discuss the benefits and limitations of different types of sources for understanding this conflict and others.


Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya?Al Jazeera  

Understanding the Rohingya Crisis

The “ethnic cleansing” of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, explainedVox (optional)

Personal accounts of Rohingya—Al Jazeera

Nasima Khatun

Arba Khatun



Noor Kajol

Begum Jaan



Muhammed Ason


Graphic Organizer—Rohingya Accounts

Speech Excerpts

Questions about the Speech

Monitoring the Rohingya Crisis in the News (optional)


Note to teachers: Be sure to preview the sources to make sure they are appropriate for your classroom.

In the Classroom

1. Introduction

Ask students what they have heard about the Rohingya people in Myanmar and the recent violence and mass migration taking place in the region. Invite students to share what they know. You may wish to point out Myanmar and its neighbors on a map, and explain that the country is often called Burma.

2. Understanding the Crisis

Break the class into groups of three or four students. Distribute the article “Myanmar: Who are the Rohingya?” and the handout, “Understanding the Rohingya Crisis” to each student. Instruct students to read the article and work together to answer the questions. Alternatively (or additionally), you may wish to show the Vox video, “The ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, explained” to the class.

Bring the class back together to review the reading. Who are the Rohingya? Why have so many Rohingya been fleeing Myanmar, and where are they going? How are recent events part of a longer history of persecution and migration? How has Myanmar’s leader responded to recent events? How has the international community responded to the crisis?

The article states that some leaders have labeled the events as genocide or ethnic cleansing. You may wish to review the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” with your class. The UN provides descriptions of these terms.

3. Reading Individual Accounts

Tell students that in order to learn more about the crisis, they will analyze personal accounts of several Rohingya who were interviewed after fleeing to Bangladesh. Distribute the handout, “Graphic Organizer” and assign three accounts to each group. You may wish to have the entire class read the same accounts, or you may assign different testimonies to various student groups. Instruct students to read the accounts and fill out the graphic organizer.

Bring the class back together, and ask students to share their reactions. What stood out to students in the testimonies? Did students notice any similarities or differences across the different accounts? How does reading about the personal experiences of individuals add to what students understood from the general article?

4. Analyzing the Government Response

Tell students that that they will be analyzing excerpts of a September 19, 2017 speech delivered by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader, after she faced criticism for remaining silent about violence against the Rohingya. Distribute the handouts,  “Speech Excerpts” and “Questions about the Speech” and instruct students to read the excerpts and answer the corresponding questions.

Review student responses as a class. How did Aung San Suu Kyi describe the current situation in Myanmar? According to the excerpts of the speech, what has been the role of Myanmar’s military in the events in recent weeks? How does Suu Kyi’s description differ from the news article and from the individual accounts?

5. Concluding Discussion

Review with students what they learned from the personal accounts from Rohingya refugees and from the speech about the current conflict delivered by Aung San Suu Kyi. What information did students gather from the personal accounts? From the speech? Did the different sources present any conflicting information? Have students provide examples. Why might these sources have presented different perspectives on certain aspects of the conflict?

Do students have remaining questions about the current crisis in Myanmar? What types of sources might students consult to further explore these questions?

Extra Challenges

  1. Have students visit the UN website and read the background information about ethnic cleansing. Using the definition provided by the UN as well as what students learned from the lesson, have students write an essay in which they argue whether or not what is happening in Myanmar is an example of ethnic cleansing.
  2. Encourage students to follow the issue in the news for a month, using the “Monitoring the Rohingya Crisis in the News” handout. Instruct students to consult two or three news sources weekly and fill in the handout. At the end of the month, bring the class together to debrief. How has the situation in Myanmar evolved? How do students think the international community should respond?

Additional Resources

The world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis is taking place in Myanmar. Here’s why.Vox

The Rohingya Migrant Crisis—Council on Foreign Relations

Rohingya crisis explained in mapsAl Jazeera

The Rohingya in Myanmar: How Years of Strife Grew Into a CrisisNYT

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