11 Jun 2012 | 18:10
Ethnic Unrest in Myanmar
Over the weekend, rising ethnic clashes between Muslims and Buddhists in Western Myanmar have prompted the imposition of an emergency rule in Rakhine State and led the U.N. to announce the voluntary relocation of its staff from the region on Monday.
The decision to temporarily relocate staff, on a voluntary basis, was made due to safety concerns. The U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar explained that “news reports and information from U.N. workers suggested that the unrest was making it impossible to continue operating in the region.” The U.N. has also requested “full government support for the safety and security of all UN and INGO staff and their families in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe.”
UN decides to relocate staff from Burma's Rakhine state
Source: BBC 11/6/2012
U.N. withdrawing staff from scene of unrest in western Myanmar
Source: CNN 11/6/2012
Rakhine State Unrest
Clashes escalated over the weekend after a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered last month and the perpetrators were identified as three men being part of the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority that is mainly based in Western Rakhine State (also referred to as Arakan state). A subsequent retaliatory attack by Buddhists led to the killing of 10 Muslims early June. Over the weekend an additional 7 people were killed in the unrest, with hundreds of houses burnt down.
The Rohingya are native to Rakhine State, but are said to be stateless as the BBC reports that “Burma considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”. Following persecution by Myanmar’s military junta, many Rohingya have tried to find refuge in other neighbouring countries, most notably Bangladesh. International organisations estimate that around 200,000 to 300,000 Rohingya’s are currently residing in Bangladesh, with around 20,000 registered in U.N. refugee camps in the country. The current clashes between the Rohingya Muslim minority and the Rakhine Buddhist majority seem to be a rare incident, but an opinion piece on Al Jazeera points towards “heightened levels of resentment towards the presence of Muslims in Myanmar society…. that awaited a trigger”.
Following the disturbances and unrest, government security forces have now been deployed to the region and it is reported that security officials have fired shots to stop the violence. Meanwhile Rohingya’s are fleeing the violence, but some 300 refugees were rejected by Bangladesh border guards when trying to enter the country by boat. Also, while some media outlets report on the unprecedented amount of information released by state media on the violent unrest, others note that the authorities seem to keep a check on the information flow with CNN noting that “the board of censors has told non-government publications in Myanmar that it will censor any articles on the situation in the western state that are not based on official reports”
Myanmar forces deployed to quell riots
Source: Al Jazeera 11/6/2012
Islamophobia and the fear of 'the other' in Myanmar
Source: Aljazeera 11/6/2012
Against the backdrop of the current unrest an Irin report highlights the consequences of the Kachin conflict that started in June last year following the collapse of a 17-year cease-fire between the Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Attacks between the parties have continued over the last 12 months and the number of IDPs continues to rise. Some 62,000 IDPs are said to reside in Kachin state, with more than 7,000 people having fled into China. Delivery of aid to the IDPs has been hampered as Irin reports that only few UN convoys have been allowed into the region since March 2012.
A policy briefing by the Transnational Institute on the Kachin conflict points to underlying ethnic tensions and the possibility of ethnic conflict within Myanmar that will be the main challenge for any government trying to move the country forward.
MYANMAR: Kachin conflict continues one year on
Source: Irin 11/6/2012
Conflict or Peace? Ethnic Unrest Intensifies in Burma
Source: Transnational Insitute june 2011
Implications for Aid Delivery in Myanmar
Both the current unrest in Rakhine state and the ongoing conflict in Kachin state point to the fragmentation of Myanmar’s society. An article on Alertnet provides several points of attention for any meaningful engagement from the international community in Myanmar. It highlights how international assistance should be focused on the ‘conflict affected ethnic minority regions’ and the ‘subnational conflict areas’. In particular in contexts such as Myanmar with numerous ethnic groups, any meaningful engagement should be focused on local conditions and complexities.
Asia Views - How Can International Assistance to Burma Avoid Mistakes of the Past?
Source: Alertnet 8/6/2012
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