By Alex Colley Hart, Burma Education Coordinator
According to reports, as many as 112 are dead and just under 3,000 homes burned last week following clashes in Burma’s western Rakhine state resulting from ongoing conflict between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya. The fighting began in June of this year and has displaced at least 90,000 people, with no sign of easing any time soon. The conflict has the potential to become increasingly violent and devastating to the region due to the conflict’s deeply rooted ethnic and racial tensions.
There is no doubting the complexity of the ongoing conflict between the Rohingya and Rakhine. Both the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Myanmar President Thein Sein have denied responsibility for the stateless Rohingya. According to a Human Rights Watch report, which also published satellite photos showing the recent destruction of homes in the Rakhine town of Kyauk Pyu, the Myanmar government has done little to address the root causes of the conflict. Additionally, the report also states that the United Nations and humanitarian aid programs were denied access to the region when fighting broke out in June and only some have been allowed to return. Rape and mass arrests have also been reported in addition to the ever-increasing body count.
Although the US has expressed concerns about the ongoing violence and lack of government response, the US has continued to engage with the Myanmar government through the easing of sanctions, the lifting of travel bans, and even an invitation to observe joint military exercises in the region; all despite the government’s continued neglect of the Rohingya. The US, EU, and others must make it clear to the Myanmar government that for continued engagement it must take actions to demonstrate the solidity of its recent reforms, specifically by allowing humanitarian organizations access to the region and finding a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict in Rakhine State. STAND as well as the rest of the international community will continue to closely watch the ongoing conflict in Rakhine State. There is absolutely no reason for the Myanmar government to not address these conditions if in fact it has truly reformed for the better.
Note: STAND uses "Burma" when referring to the country, and "Myanmar" when referring to its government.