Smoke is seen on Burma's side of border as an exhausted Rohingya refugee is carried to the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Burma border on Sept. 11, 2017. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

In this occasional series, the London bureau of The Washington Post brings you up to speed on some of the biggest stories of the week. First up: The plight of the Rohingya.

The biggest story: “An ethnic cleansing”

The number of Rohingya refugees fleeing a military crackdown in Burma has topped 370,000, in a crisis the United Nations human rights chief called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Hundreds of thousands of the long-persecuted ethnic minority have streamed into Bangladesh via land and rickety boats, as Annie Gowen writes.

In this video, my colleague Max Bearak explains why the crisis is happening:

One person has come under particular criticism: Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The former political opponent and de facto Burmese leader has remained silent in the face of the crackdown.

The violence is the latest sign that the nation’s fragile democratic project is on tenuous footing, as Annie Gowen and David Nakamura write.

Other countries in Southeast Asia have also shown signs of increasing human rights violations or moves away from democracy, as Vincent Bevins writes from Jakarta in Indonesia. 

Five other important stories

1. Obama joins the Merkel team

Meanwhile, one Nobel Peace Prize winner remains an idol in Europe. Barack Obama — who hasn’t run for office in five years — is back on campaign posters, promoting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reelection bid in Germany.

The posters carry the endorsement Obama made during his final overseas trip as U.S. president last November. “If I were German and I had a vote, I'd support her,” he said at the time, Griff Witte and Luisa Beck write from Berlin.


Campaign posters featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama have gone up in Berlin. (Griff Witte/The Washington Post)

Obama's visit came just after Donald Trump election victory, and amid fears of a similar right-wing surge in Europe. But the far-right remains behind Germany's more traditional parties in the polls.

Another fear that also has not materialized so far: a Russian attempt to influence Germany's election. Even Kremlin-orchestrated bots — blamed for the viral spread of fake news in the U.S. presidential campaign — have been conspicuously silent. For officials and experts who had warned of a likely onslaught in Germany, the apparent absence of a robust Russian campaign to sabotage the vote is a mystery, writes Griff Witte.

2. Russia's game with war

Russia may not have played a big role in the German election so far, but it continues to provoke on other fronts. A war game this week was expected to show off a military that has been transformed under President Vladimir Putin into an effective force that has deployed to Syria and Ukraine in recent years, write David Filipov and Michael Birnbaum from Riga, Latvia.


A man watches Russian military jets performing in Alabino, outside Moscow. (Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press)

3. How to escape North Korea

As North Korea flies missiles over Japan and threatens to strike the United States, some North Koreans are risking their lives to make an invisible journey out of Kim Jong Un’s clutches to safety. Tokyo Bureau Chief Anna Fifield spoke to some who made the journey.

4. Members of Brazilian tribe might have been slaughtered

The outside world might never have heard about the suspected massacre if not for some barroom boasting by a group of miners fresh from working an illegal gig in the Amazon jungle.

The tribe members were greater in number — there were as many as 10 — but the gold miners said they had killed the entire lot, according to an organization that campaigns for indigenous people. If confirmed, it would be one of the largest mass murders of “uncontacted” people in decades.

Read the full story by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. 

5. Trump told people to ‘look at what’s happening … in Sweden’ earlier this year. Now, Sweden responds.

Since his election, President Trump has made controversial remarks about several European countries that have elicited strong reactions and sometimes confusion. In February, he suggested that a terrorism attack had taken place in Sweden “last night.” The truth, however, was the night had been relatively uneventful.

In a long-planned response to his comments, a group of Swedish photographers launched a book on Tuesday that aims to “depict the country as it really is,” according to the publishers.

Read the full story and view some of the photos.


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