A trio of ethnic armed groups have escalated their fight with the military in Myanmar’s Shan State. This alliance has long been outside the country’s peace process. With China’s help, the government should pursue bilateral ceasefires – and longer-term rapprochement – with the three organisations.
Amid ongoing clashes between Arakan Army (AA) and military in Rakhine State, AA continued apparent asymmetric tactic of mass kidnappings, with 3 Nov abduction of ten people from speed boat on Kaladan River from southern Chin State to Rakhine State, including five Indian engineers and ruling party MP for Paletwa; AA released hostages after one engineer died, but continues to hold MP, U Hwai Tin. Bilateral ceasefire talks continued between army and four members of Northern Alliance - Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), AA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA, Kokang); military and KIO appeared to be inching toward new agreement, however possible accord between military and AA and TNLA remained elusive. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and UN Secretary-General António Guterres clashed at ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok 3 Nov, after Guterres expressed concern over situation of Rohingyas in Rakhine State and Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh, and stressed Myanmar’s responsibility for creating conditions conducive to voluntary return. Moves toward international accountability ramped up, with Gambia 11 Nov filing case under Genocide Convention against Myanmar at International Court of Justice (ICJ), which will hold public hearings 10-12 Dec to consider Gambia’s request for provisional measures; Myanmar 19 Nov announced Suu Kyi would personally lead delegation to “defend the national interest of Myanmar at the ICJ”, and has retained prominent international lawyers. Case launched in Argentina 13 Nov under country’s universal jurisdiction provisions that names Suu Kyi, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and two former presidents in crimes against Rohingya. International Criminal Court 14 Nov announced decision granting authorisation for formal investigation which could lead to indictments of individuals in Myanmar deemed responsible for international crimes.
Myanmar’s 2020 polls are a chance to consolidate electoral democracy in the country. Yet many ethnic minorities doubt that voting gives them a real say. To preempt possible violence, the government and outside partners should work to enhance the ballot’s inclusiveness and transparency.
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.
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.
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.
Ethnic armed conflict, the ongoing Rohingya crisis and thriving illegal business are preventing Myanmar from solving the country’s protracted conflicts. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2019 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to sustain aid and diversify its peacebuilding initiatives.
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.