Crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine Region

IAS Prelims 2023

Myanmar government has rejected the rumours that the Government was establishing paramilitary forces in Rakhine State.

Because extremists are stepping up terrorist activities in the region, the government is working with the security forces to quell terrorist actions, to control the May Yu mountain area and to protect local people there.

The government has a priority to wipe out the terrorists in order to maintain peace, stability and security in the region.

Rakhine State is a state in Myanmar (Burma). Situated on the western coast, it is bordered by Chin State to the north, Magway Region, Bago Region and Ayeyarwady Region to the east, the Bay of Bengal to the west, and the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh to the northwest.

The Arakan Mountains, rising to 3,063 metres (10,049 ft) at Victoria Peak, separate Rakhine State from central Burma. Off the coast of Rakhine State there are some fairly large islands such as Cheduba and Myingun Island.

Rakhine State has an area of 36,762 square kilometres (14,194 sq mi) and its capital is Sittwe.

Rakhine is home to over one million displaced people, most belonging to the Rohingya community. It is one of the largest stateless populations in the world, in spite of their belief that they are indigenous to Rakhine.

The Rohingya have been called the most persecuted people in the world – at this moment in time – and are denied Myanmarese citizenship. Physical violence against them is common, with hundreds killed and thousands of houses belonging to them burned down since 2012. Reports of sexual abuse by the police and even the army have also been rife, with many Rohingya denied access to healthcare, means of employment and food.

One hundred thousand people, Buddhists and Muslims, are estimated to be displaced as a result of the violence between the two groups.

The Rohingya believe they have as much right to Rakhine as the Buddhist community does.

Troops in Myanmar’s northeastern Rakhine state were put on high alert after nearly 200 Rakhine Buddhist villagers fled the area after a recent spate of killings and amid fears of fresh attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

In Rakhine state, there have been particularly bitter tensions between the Rakhine people, who are Buddhist and make up the majority of the state’s population, and Muslims.

Most of these Muslims identify themselves as Rohingya, a group that originated in part of Bengal, now called Bangladesh.

In the towns bordering Bangladesh, where several clashes have taken place, the majority of the population is Muslim.

The Burmese government says they are relatively recent migrants from the Indian sub-continent. As a result, the country’s constitution does not include them among indigenous groups qualifying for citizenship.

Historically, the Rakhine majority has resented the presence of Rohingyas, who they view as Muslim people from another country. There is widespread public hostility towards the Rohingya in Myanmar.

The Rohingya, on the other hand, feel they are part of Myanmar and claim persecution by the state. Neighbouring Bangladesh already hosts several hundred thousand refugees from Myanmar and says it cannot take any more.

A UN rights expert voiced alarm at a growing security operation in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine State, where the government has been accused of widespread abuses against Rohingya Muslims.

The United Nations has established a fact-finding mission to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the military during the counter-offensive. The administration of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected the allegations and opposes the mission.

Rohingyas in India:

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, with many taking refuge in Bangladesh, and some then crossing a porous border into India.

All of an estimated 40,000 Rohingya Muslims living in India are illegal immigrants. Indian Union Home Minister of State Kiren Rijiju told parliament that the central government had directed state authorities to identify and deport illegal immigrants including Rohingya, who face persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has issued identity cards to about 16,500 Rohingya in India that it says help them “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation”.

The UNHCR’s India office said that the principle of non-refoulement – or not sending back refugees to a place where they face danger – was considered part of customary international law and binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.