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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

Armed conflict in north continued to escalate, with clashes between military and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in Kachin state displacing over 7,000 civilians since early April. In northern Shan state, nineteen people killed including twelve civilians and 27 injured in clash in key border trading town Muse 12 May; fighting followed attack by Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) on police and allied militia positions. China 14 May demanded end to fighting, noting that clashes had killed two Chinese nationals and prompted 300 people to flee into China. Clashes also escalated between TNLA and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) in state early May, displacing some 600 in Namtu township. Early and late May also saw small-scale deadly clashes between Arakan Army and Tatmadaw troops in southern Chin state. Peace process continued to inch toward next Panglong-21 peace conference, although date yet to be fixed. International scrutiny of Rohingya crisis continued: Organisation of Islamic Cooperation FMs meeting in Bangladesh 5-6 May pushed for accountability and political action; Myanmar govt 9 May criticised meeting’s outcome statement, same day lodged complaint about construction by Bangladesh border police of security posts within agreed no-construction zone near border line. Following late April visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar, UN Security Council 9 May issued press statement noting its members “were struck by the scale of the humanitarian crisis”, remain “gravely concerned”, urging govt to create conditions conducive to safe, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya, implement Rakhine Advisory Commission recommendations, and called for accountability for perpetrators of violence. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi 1 May said her govt “is pleased to be working in partnership with the UN” including on repatriation, “believes that this is the appropriate time” for UN refugee agency involvement in Rakhine, but no substantive follow-through yet. Amnesty International 22 May reported evidence that Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) had killed scores of Hindu civilians after launching attacks on security posts in Rakhine state Aug 2017; ARSA denied.

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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

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

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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