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.
Govt continued to resist concessions on key issues of international concern over Rohingya crisis, including humanitarian access, despite UN Security Council scrutiny and diplomatic pressure exerted at regional summits and Asia-Europe foreign ministers’ meeting in Naypyitaw 20-21 Nov. UN Security Council 6 Nov agreed Presidential Statement strongly condemning violence and displacement and expressing alarm at humanitarian situation; Myanmar representative rejected statement. UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten 22 Nov said alleged atrocities by military against Rohingya women and girls may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. U.S. Sec State Tillerson 22 Nov called military operation against Rohingya “ethnic cleansing”, said U.S. will pursue possible targeted sanctions against individuals responsible. IOM 25 Nov estimated number of arrivals in Bangladesh since 25 Aug at 624,000. Myanmar and Bangladesh 23 Nov signed repatriation agreement; rights groups criticised deal for lacking clear provisions, and any repatriation is likely a distant prospect. Govt continues to rule out involvement of UN refugee agency in repatriation. Suu Kyi 2 Nov made her first trip to Rakhine state since taking power, meeting Rakhine and Rohingya communities. Military 13 Nov released results of internal investigation into its conduct during “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine since 25 Aug: denied allegations of rape, killing by soldiers, stated “not a single shot was fired” on civilians. Tens of thousands marched through Yangon 29 Oct in support of military. Sermon delivered by prominent monk Sitagu to military officers in Kayin state 30 Oct, in which he appeared to provide religious justification for mass killing of non-Buddhists, prompted considerable alarm internationally and by some in Myanmar in subsequent days. Pope Francis made first-ever papal visit to Myanmar 27-30 Nov meeting govt, military leaders, gave Mass for 150,000 from Catholic community; spoke of need for unity and respect for all, but did not refer directly to Rakhine crisis or use word “Rohingya”. Some 330 people reportedly fled fighting between military, Arakan Army in Paletwa, southern Chin state since 1 Nov.
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.
After almost 70 years of armed conflict, Myanmar has a rare but fading opportunity to finalise a broad-based, federal settlement. The government must adopt a more flexible approach that allays opposition concerns, and armed groups need to go beyond preliminaries and engage in meaningful discussions.
The first four months of Myanmar’s democratic government have set a positive tone. But de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi needs to find ways to bring peace with ethnic insurgents closer, rebalance relations with China, and overcome deeply ingrained problems in Rakhine State.
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.
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.
The Rohingya insurgent attacks that killed twelve Myanmar soldiers and officials and perhaps 77 of their own number is a serious escalation of a ten-month-old crisis. They make implementation of this week’s recommendations to address Rohingya grievances from Kofi Annan’s Advisory Commission both harder and more urgent.
Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review
The emergence of the al-Yaqin armed group in Myanmar's Rakhine State and the heavy-handed response by the government risk imperiling the country's transition to democracy. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017 annual early-warning report for European policy makers, Crisis Group encourages the European Union and its member states to pressure the highest level of the government and military to stop abuses in Rakhine and develop a political strategy to address the underlying causes of armed militancy.