From the outside, the story of what’s happening in Myanmar today must be hard to believe. As Daily Show host Trevor Noah put: “This shit is mind-blowing.”
In November 2015, the comedian dedicated a segment to Myanmar’s elections and pointed out that the military would hold a lot of power in the country. On Wednesday, he revisited Myanmar and analyzed the way the civilian government has coexisted with the military, highlighting ironies along the way.
“Myanmar’s army is systematically targeting the country’s minority Rohingya population, which is a horror that is beyond belief,” he says. “What’s even more unbelievable is finding out who the villains are.”
He then shows clips of CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria describing “a Buddhist country that is persecuting – violently – a Muslim minority.”
“I didn’t even know that Buddhists could be violent,” Noah exclaims. “This goes against everything I thought I knew about Buddhism…Did I have the wrong idea just because Buddha is so chubby and cute?”
The answer is probably “Yes.” He should have learned a long time ago that all religions and all governments are violent. But from his perspective, and from the perspectives of people around the world who are just getting their first whiff of Myanmar’s dirty laundry, the incredulity is understandable, as is people’s shock at how the country’s most famous citizen is responding to the crisis.
Noah says: “The idea of violent Buddhists is such a mindfuck. What’s just as twisted is a Peace Prize winner in a position of power watching the violence and going ‘shrug emoji.’”
He then shows a clip of Aung San Suu Kyi’s April 2017 interview with BBC correspondent Fergal Keane, in which she says: “I think ‘ethnic cleansing’ is too strong an expression to use for what’s happening.”
Noah retorts: “I feel like you’ve already lost the argument when you’re saying: ‘Hey we haven’t killed enough people yet for it to be called ethnic cleansing. Think of this as more of a light ethnic dusting.’”
Noah acknowledges that Suu Kyi doesn’t control the military and that many people say she’s powerless to stop the ethnic dusting. Nonetheless, he says, New York subway rules should apply: “If you see something, say something. That should be the rule.”
Then, referring to Suu Kyi’s comments in which she attributes violence in Rakhine State to “fear on both sides,” Noah adds: “And if you do say something, try not to sound like Donald Trump.”
“Did you hear that?” Noah said. “She just ‘both-sided’ ethnic cleansing.”
Last month, after civil rights activist Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump received bipartisan criticism when he condemned the violence “on many sides.”
He then offers some wise advice about who should win the Nobel Peace Prize, and when.
“So many people have won the prize, and they’ve benefited from all of its prestige, and then they’ve gone on to not be peaceful. Maybe we should only give the Nobel Peace Prize after their career is over and they’ve passed away…Then we know you’re not gonna surprise us. You’re not gonna hurt anyone.”
It’s not a bad idea.