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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

Concerns continued over possible forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, while ethnic peace process appeared to enter fragile stage ahead of dry season with spike in fighting and all sides losing confidence in the current peace process. Fighting among ethnic armed organisations spiked in Shan state, specifically between Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and Shan State Army North (SSA-N), and between RCSS and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA); two largest armed groups’ suspension of participation in ethnic peace process (Karen National Union late Oct and RCSS 2 Nov) dealt significant blow. Following 30 Oct agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to proceed with limited repatriation of Rohingya refugees, planned return of some 2,260 scheduled to begin 15 Nov did not proceed after no one was willing to return; Bangladesh stated it will not proceed with repatriations until after its elections 30 Dec (see Bangladesh). UN and aid organisations had strongly criticised plan. Several reports emerged of refugees, fearful of forced returns, resuming dangerous boat journeys across Bay of Bengal, possibly aided by organised smuggling operations. On sidelines of ASEAN summit 11-15 Nov, Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad again criticised State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and govt’s oppression of Rohingya; summit outcome statement 15 Nov stated need for accountability and creation of conditions in Rakhine state conducive for refugee returns. In 14 Nov meeting with Suu Kyi, U.S. VP Mike Pence called for progress on accountability for violence against Rohingya and for pardon of two Reuters journalists jailed in 2017. Govt criticised UN General Assembly’s 16 Nov resolution which endorsed UN Fact-Finding Mission’s report and establishment of Independent Mechanism to prepare prosecutorial files. With possibility of end to EU’s Everything But Arms preferential trade scheme and pursuant uncertainty over future of garment industry reportedly having serious effect on business and investor sentiment, EU delegation visited early Nov to assess human rights environment.

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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

Consultant, 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

Consultant, 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

Consultant, 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

Consultant, Myanmar

Latest Updates

Op-Ed / Asia

Rohingya Deserve Non-violent Leadership

Originally published in Asia Times

Commentary / Asia

Myanmar/Bangladesh: A Humanitarian Calamity and a Two-country Crisis

More than one million Muslim Rohingya forced to flee from Myanmar now live in camps in south-eastern Bangladesh. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2018, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to increase funding for refugee assistance and use diplomatic leverage to find a compromise on the issue of refugee repatriation.

Op-Ed / Asia

Will Rohingya Refugees Start Returning to Myanmar in 2018?

Most went back home from Bangladesh in two earlier exoduses, but this time is different.

Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review

Commentary / Asia

Rohingya Crisis: A Major Threat to Myanmar Transition and Regional Stability

The international community’s failure to address Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis has resulted in massive displacement from Rakhine state. The crisis poses a clear threat to Myanmar’s democratic transition. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2017 – Third Update early warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group urges the European Union and its member states to support strong Security Council action and push for multilateral and bilateral engagement with Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders.

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Richard Horsey

Consultant, Myanmar
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