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Myanmar

Crisis Group is monitoring the volatility in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious country during its transition away from military rule. In Rakhine state, longstanding communal tensions and government discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim minority have morphed into a major crisis. In August 2017, following militant  attacks, the military drove more than 750,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh. This human catastrophe is also a potential driver of transnational jihadist group mobilisation or recruitment. Meanwhile, armed conflict has escalated in both Rakhine and Shan states, and the peace process with some 21 ethnic armed groups has lost momentum as it collides with political and electoral realities. Through field research and advocacy, Crisis Group works to mitigate the impact of armed conflict, strengthen the peace process and promote improved communal relations.

CrisisWatch Myanmar

Unchanged Situation

Insecurity continued in northern Shan state and Rakhine state in west, while govt held talks with ethnic armed groups based along Thai border. In Shan state, following end of military’s unilateral ceasefire in Sept, clashes continued between Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and military including TNLA 9 Oct ambush of convoy army trucks passing through Hseni town, killing three soldiers, injuring three others and seven civilians. In Rakhine State military and Arakan Army (AA) clashed regularly, with military deploying air and naval assets. Navy 1 Oct shelled village on Kaladan River in Kyauktaw township claiming AA fighters were taking refuge there; hit monastic school, injuring five. AA 26 Oct attacked ferry in northern Rakhine, abducting some 50 police, military and govt officials; several reported killed in military operation to release them; military 28 Oct reported fourteen rescued. Mandalay court 8 Oct charged six alleged AA members and supporters with terrorism offences following Sept police raid that uncovered explosives, detonators and communications equipment. Govt continued informal talks with Restoration Council of Shan State and Karen National Union, two largest ethnic armed groups along Thai border, with hopes it could lead to them resuming full participation in formal negotiations. Govt also held separate discussions with Kachin Independence Organisation, AA, TNLA and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, aiming to establish bilateral ceasefires. Court in Ngapudaw township, Ayeyarwady Region (south of Rakhine state), 4 Oct sentenced 21 Rohingya to two years imprisonment for attempting to travel from Rakhine to Yangon without permission, following single hearing and without legal representation for defendants; rights groups condemned trial as evidence of continued discrimination faced by Rohingya and lack of conditions for safe repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh. UN Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee 22 Oct reported it remains “unsafe for [Rohingya refugees] to return to Myanmar”, and called on UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to International Criminal Court. Bangladeshi govt maintained hardline stance against Rohingya refugees (see Bangladesh).

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

29 Nov 2017
The Pope was aware that inserting himself too strongly into a situation with a lot of religious undertones could inflame tensions further in Myanmar. ABC

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
26 Nov 2017
[Buddhist] monks feel the [Myanmar] government is weak on the protection of Buddhism and keeping the morals of the country intact. CNN

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
5 Sep 2017
The [Myanmar] military and government should be careful not to assume all Rohingya are sympathizers or supporters [of jihadis]. Deutsche Welle

Anagha Neelakantan

Former Program Director, Asia
29 Aug 2017
It should be in the government’s power to create the conditions in which to implement some of these recommendations [of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State in Myanmar]. RFI

Anagha Neelakantan

Former Program Director, Asia
31 Mar 2017
Most [political] transitions end badly like the Arab spring. [They] are always bumpy and I think Myanmar is going through a particularly bumpy moment in its transition. The Guardian

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
3 Feb 2017
The threat is not because of [Harakah al-Yaqin's] military strength, it's because of what they represent, the potential of [Myanmar] facing a very well organized, violent jihadist movement. CNN

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar

Latest Updates

Commentary / Asia

Myanmar: Humanitarian Crisis and Armed Escalation

Ethnic armed conflict, the ongoing Rohingya crisis and thriving illegal business are preventing Myanmar from solving the country’s protracted conflicts. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to sustain aid and diversify its peacebuilding initiatives.

Briefing / Asia

A New Dimension of Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

Ethnic Rakhine insurgents have attacked four police stations in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, provoking a military counteroffensive. Escalation could imperil both prospects for Rohingya repatriation and the country’s transition toward civilian rule. All sides should step back from confrontation and pursue talks about Rakhine State’s future.

Also available in Burmese
Report / Asia

Fire and Ice: Conflict and Drugs in Myanmar’s Shan State

Civil strife has turned Myanmar’s Shan State into a crystal methamphetamine hub. The richer the traffickers get, the harder the underlying conflicts will be to resolve. Instead of targeting minor offenders, the military should root out corruption, including among top brass, and disarm complicit paramilitaries.

Also available in Burmese
Briefing / Asia

Bangladesh-Myanmar: The Danger of Forced Rohingya Repatriation

Bangladesh and Myanmar have struck a deal for the involuntary repatriation of over 2,000 Rohingya refugees. But the agreement is rushed and threatens stability on both sides of the border. Myanmar and Bangladesh should halt the plan and instead work to create conditions conducive to a safe and dignified return. 

Briefing / Asia

Myanmar’s Stalled Transition

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government appears stuck amid international condemnation of the Rohingya's mass displacement and domestic unease about the economy. To nudge Myanmar’s post-junta transition forward, the UN should combine engagement with pressure for accountability for crimes against humanity and eventual refugee return.

Also available in Burmese

Our People

Richard Horsey

Senior Adviser, Myanmar
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