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.
International criticism of govt’s response to Rohingya crisis and treatment of jailed journalists continued, as did sporadic clashes between ethnic armed groups and military in north. Yangon court 3 Sept sentenced two local Reuters journalists to seven years’ prison with hard labour for violating Official Secrets Act, despite credible evidence that police had set them up and prosecution failing to make convincing case; journalists had been investigating killings of ten Rohingya by security forces and local villagers at time of their arrest in Dec 2017; case widely seen internationally as miscarriage of justice and bellwether for Myanmar’s declining press freedom. Speaking at World Economic Forum event in Vietnam 13 Sept, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi backed court’s action; also acknowledged that situation in Rakhine state “could have been handled better” and took responsibility for “political aspect” but declined to criticise what she termed “military aspect”. International Criminal Court 6 Sept ruled that it had jurisdiction over alleged forced deportation of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh, even though Myanmar is not a state party, since part of the alleged crime occurred on territory of a state party (Bangladesh). Myanmar govt “resolutely rejected” ruling, calling it “the result of faulty procedure”, “manifest bad faith”, and “of dubious legal merit”. UN continues to express frustration at its lack of access to northern Rakhine state, despite MoU agreed by govt in May; on 12 Sept began two-week assessment in 23 villages in area selected by govt. In Rakhine State, tensions continued between authorities and Rakhine Buddhist majority; Sittwe court 10 Sept decided to confirm high treason charges, which carry life imprisonment, against Rakhine political leader and former lawmaker Dr. Aye Maung. Armed clashes involving ethnic groups remain relatively limited, in part due to monsoon; sporadic fighting occurred in northern Shan State early Sept between troops of National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA)-signatory Restoration Council of Shan State and non-signatory Ta’ang National Liberation Army, also in northern hills of Kayin State between military and Fifth Brigade of Karen National Union, an NCA signatory.
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.
The mass flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine State has created a humanitarian catastrophe and serious security risks, including potential cross-border militant attacks. The international community should press the Myanmar government to urgently implement the Annan commission’s proposals, including as regards discrimination, segregation and citizenship.
Extreme Buddhist nationalist positions including hate speech and violence are on the rise in Myanmar. Rather than ineffective bans on broad-based groups like the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (MaBaTha), the government should address underlying causes and reframe the debate on Buddhism’s place in society and politics.
Despite important progress at the 24-29 May 2017 round of peace talks, the path toward a negotiated end to Myanmar’s conflicts remains fraught with difficulties. All sides must redouble their engagement to broaden armed groups’ participation in the talks, and improve the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
Recent attacks by an émigré-led force of trained Rohingya fighters mark a dangerous turn. To remove a main root of the violence – Rohingya despair – the government must reverse longstanding discrimination against the Muslim minority, moderate its military tactics, and reach out to Myanmar’s Muslim allies.
The Pope was aware that inserting himself too strongly into a situation with a lot of religious undertones could inflame tensions further in Myanmar.
[Buddhist] monks feel the [Myanmar] government is weak on the protection of Buddhism and keeping the morals of the country intact.
The [Myanmar] military and government should be careful not to assume all Rohingya are sympathizers or supporters [of jihadis].
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].
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 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.
Originally published in Asia Times
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.
Most went back home from Bangladesh in two earlier exoduses, but this time is different.
Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review
Originally published in Lowy Institute
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.