In 2011, fighting between Myanmar’s military and Kachin rebels displaced more than 100,000 people. Now they might be able to go home. The military and insurgents should both cease fire while the government arranges for the internally displaced persons’ safe, voluntary return or resettlement.
Significant clashes between Arakan Army (AA) and Myanmar military in Rakhine state continued and spread further south. AA claimed to have clashed 33 times with military 1-12 May, including 12 May ambush of military convoy near Western Command headquarters in Ann township. Tensions in Rakhine increased following deaths of civilians in military custody, after army rounded up some 275 Rakhine men and boys aged 15-50 in Buthidaung township (north) 30 April, and 2 May shot dead six and wounded eight. Local villagers disputed military’s claim that men were attempting to riot; military announced internal investigation into incident and released some of those detained, but 83 still under interrogation or facing prosecution for links to AA; UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern for their safety. NGO Amnesty International 29 May released report detailing Myanmar military “war crimes” in Rakhine since Jan, also finding evidence of AA abuses against civilians. Malaysian police 13 May said they had disrupted Islamic State (ISIS) cell plotting attacks in Malaysia and other countries, with two Rohingya among those arrested, one reportedly a supporter of militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) intending to target Myanmar embassy and targets in Rakhine state. Following talks between govt’s peace team and Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, military 30 April declared two-month extension to unilateral ceasefire in Kachin and Shan States originally announced in Dec 2018. UN Fact-Finding Mission 14 May urged international community to cut off all financial and other support to military in effort to hold army accountable for “atrocities against many of the ethnic groups living within borders of Myanmar”. Govt 7 May released on humanitarian grounds two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, jailed in 2017 for breaking Official Secrets Act in their reporting on massacre of Rohingya men, as part of presidential amnesty; civil society groups welcomed decision but warned of ongoing media restrictions. EU late April announced extension of sanctions until 30 April 2020, including arms embargo as well as visa bans and asset freezes for fourteen members of police and military associated with human rights violations.
Bangladesh is hosting nearly a million Rohingya refugees who have little hope of going home any time soon. The government should move to improve camp living conditions, in particular by lifting the education ban and fighting crime. Donors should support such steps.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.