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Myanmar

In Rakhine state, longstanding communal tensions and extreme discrimination by the government against the Rohingya Muslim minority has morphed into a major crisis. Following renewed attacks by a militant group on security targets in northern Rakhine in August 2017, a brutal response by the military has driven more than 430,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh. In addition to the human catastrophe, this could undermine the political transition and make Myanmar a target for transnational jihadist groups. The peace process with some 21 ethnic armed groups has lost momentum, and a negotiated settlement remains elusive. Resurgent Buddhist nationalism threatens to divide communities and faiths in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. Through field research and advocacy aimed at the Myanmar government as well as influential regional and international actors, Crisis Group works to help mitigate the crisis in Rakhine state, strengthen the peace process and promote improved intercommunal relations.

CrisisWatch Myanmar

Unchanged Situation

Regular, serious clashes between Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar military continued, particularly in Mrauk-U, Buthidaung and Kyauktaw townships, Rakhine state. AA ambush in Buthidaung 5 April reportedly resulted in deaths of Myanmar army captain and some 20 soldiers he was leading; AA 9 April overran police compound and nearby artillery base in Mrauk-U, reportedly killing at least a dozen police and abducting family members. Military reportedly suffered heavy losses while retaking bases and called in airstrikes by fighter jets; civilian casualties reported. Rohingya villagers also caught in crossfire; at least seven and possibly many more killed when they came under helicopter fire in southern Buthidaung 3 April, believed to be case of mistaken identity. Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army militant group also ambushed police vehicle 22 April; no deaths reported. Rakhine State govt 1 April imposed overnight curfew in urban and rural areas across five townships (Ponnagyun, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, and Minbya). Ahead of anticipated arrival of monsoon, small number of Rohingya continued efforts to cross Bay of Bengal to Malaysia before sea conditions deteriorate. UN Sec-Gen António Guterres 2 April appointed U.S. citizen Nicholas Koumjian to head UN-established Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), which is expected to start work by end of 2019 to collect evidence and prepare prosecutorial files “on the most serious international crimes committed in Myanmar since 2011”. President Win Myint issued amnesties for more than 17,000 prisoners to mark Myanmar new year; only four of estimated 364 political prisoners included. Supreme Court 23 April upheld sentence of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, jailed for breaking Official Secrets Act in case that has attracted widespread international condemnation and concern over free speech.

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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

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

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

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

Adviser, Myanmar

Latest Updates

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
Op-Ed / Asia

Rohingya Deserve Non-violent Leadership

Originally published in Asia Times

Report / Asia

The Long Haul Ahead for Myanmar’s Rohingya Refugee Crisis

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees from brutal military operations in Myanmar are stuck in Bangladesh, with returns to Myanmar unlikely soon and Bangladeshi goodwill being tested. In Myanmar, international partners must be allowed access to northern Rakhine State. In Bangladesh, donors must help both refugees and their local hosts.

Also available in Burmese, 简体中文

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Richard Horsey

Adviser, Myanmar
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