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.
Return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh remained stalled despite bilateral agreement on procedures; number of Rohingya refugees who have fled from Rakhine state to Bangladesh now stands at 688,000, with small numbers continuing to cross. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi 13 Feb told UN Security Council conditions “not yet conducive to voluntary repatriation” with causes of their flight not yet addressed, no substantive progress on addressing deepening exclusion and denial of rights rooted in lack of citizenship. Reuters 8 Feb released report that detained journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been working on at time of their Dec arrest: provides detailed reconstruction of extrajudicial execution of ten Rohingya villagers by soldiers, police and ethnic Rakhine villagers, and their burial in mass grave. Report prompted renewed calls from U.S. and UN for independent investigation into events in northern Rakhine. Govt spokesperson 11 Feb stated action would be taken against ten members of security forces, six villagers in connection with killings. Associated Press (AP) 1 Feb reported it had conducted detailed interviews with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and identified five previously unreported massacres of Rohingya civilians in days after 25 Aug whose bodies had been buried by Myanmar soldiers in mass graves. Govt 2 Feb rejected claims; Rakhine state govt said it was planning to sue AP. Authorities 9 Feb charged prominent Rakhine figures Aye Maung and Wai Hin Aung, both arrested in Jan on charges of unlawful association and incitement, with high treason; sporadic protests across Rakhine state against their prosecution. Three small bombs exploded near govt buildings in state capital Sittwe 24 Feb; no fatalities. Canada announced sanctions 16 Feb against senior Myanmar officer for role in Rohingya crackdown. U.S. Senate committee unanimously passed sanctions bill on Myanmar 7 Feb. EU Foreign Affairs Council 26 Feb called for targeted restrictive measures against senior military officers and strengthening of existing arms embargo. Clashes continued between govt and Kachin Independence Organisation and Ta’ang National Liberation Army, while peace process remained moribund, despite signing of Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement by two additional groups 13 Feb.
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.
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.
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.