Arakan Violence Risks Reform U-turn

Violence in Burma’s western state of Arakan is threatening to derail the country’s nascent and unstable reform process. The government and all concerned parties need to take urgent action to end this sectarian strife quickly and speed up prospects of national reconciliation.

On Friday afternoon, local government spokesperson Win Myaing told The Irrawaddy over the phone from Arakan State that more than 100 people had already been killed since bloody clashes between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Arakanese Buddhists resurfaced on Sunday. Official reports also indicate that around 2,000 homes have been burned down.

The ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party MP said that 112 people—51 men and 61 women—were killed, yet it was unclear how many of the victims were Rohingya and how many were Arakanese.

It does not matter which group suffered more. It is the sheer level of violence that has sullied the nation’s dignity. Politically, the conflict is chipping away at the legitimacy of the democratic revival which itself has already faced lots of problems.

In June, sectarian clashes killed at least 90 people and destroyed around 3,000 houses in Arakan State. Around 70,000 Rohingya remain in displacement camps. This current cycle of violence seems certain to escalate unless the government takes immediate and effective action to end all forms of conflict.

Kyaw Zwa Moe is editor (English Edition) of the Irrawaddy magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]

President Thein Sein and government ministers should have tried harder to solve the problem before now. Otherwise, the communal strife will undermine the country’s overall political and economic reform.

In August, the government formed an investigation commission to delve into what really happened in western Burma during June. But so far, the commission—comprised of ethnic leaders, government officials and prominent political activists—has not even managed to release a thorough report to disclose the causes of or possible solutions to the crisis.

Apart from the government, the Naypyidaw Parliament must seriously discuss how to address the ongoing violence.

On Friday, a member of the Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquility of the Lower House, chaired by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, proposed discussing the sectarian strife in Parliament. After the debate, MPs agreed that the government must send more troops to quell the violence.

In fact, the issue should been given more attention in the legislature. As chairwoman of the Rule of Law Committee and a respected pro-democracy leader, Suu Kyi herself should take it upon herself to do more to help end this communal discord.

During her visit to the United States last month, Suu Kyi stressed that she had no desire to make the president’s job any more difficult than it already was when it came to tackling the Arakan clashes.

“We do not want to criticize the government just for the sake of making political capital. We want to help the government in any way possible to bring about peace and harmony in [Arakan] State. Whatever help is asked from us, we are prepared to give if it is within our ability to do so,” she said.
But this is no longer enough. It is high time that Suu Kyi, as well as all other political and ethnic leaders, put more collaborative effort into ending the violence. It is not merely a matter of inter-communal strife within Arakan State anymore.

Unless it can be stopped before too long, the problem is likely to threaten other parts of Burma. Then the country’s fledgling overall reform process will face even more barriers in the way.


8 Responses to Arakan Violence Risks Reform U-turn

  1. The riots were indeed created by Thein Sein government to discredit  the popularity of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

  2. the fledgeling burmese democracy has already been challenged – and this time, it is the rowdy elements among the foreign instigators are to blame.  the measures taken up by the Thein Sein government are appreciated but everyone should understand that the two parties in the seemingly unending senseless killing need to sort out things.  in this case the government needs to build confidence.  in each and every instance of killing the bengali rohingyas have been found to start it.  there is every reason to believe that they are creating it under the influence of their foreign masters.  it is sad and perhaps has no real solution.  the madness is there, it will be there and the people have to live with it.  the role of OIC in this case should also needs to be analyzed … because it has been reported that the bengali rohingyas have been burning their own houses for hope of OIC relief.

  3. Boy ! Talking of reform in progress & events in the West could risk reform U-turn.
    Well, this statement is wrong since:
    – show us where is the progress of reform ? None !
    – even if the people are frustrated with slow/none reform process, can they go out into streets ? No!
    – anyhow if they go out into streets, you’ll get shot plus they(mufti junta) got the right to seize power(coup) ! 
    – so there is no meaning in this atatement !

  4. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    One of the biggest barriers to a country reform process to democracy has been clearly identified: communal riots in western part of Burma. Burmese conventional proverb says: “There is always a cure to any identified disease of all kinds”; at this moment Burma is suffering the disease of hatred violence that have been twisted with the religion, and races due to bias news coverage, exaggeration of the situation by INGOs and slanderous accusation of mass murder, ethnic cleaning and genocide by external and internal Muslim extremist groups.  

    Regardless of how this great danger of hatred violence has arrived to Burma, another conventional proverb of Burmese says: “No matter who does what, you must be accountable for your own conducts”, meaning; take responsibility of our own lives with a sense of being in control of our future that will create ourselves happier, healthier and ultimately more likely to achieve overall success. This kind of self-determination has to be the basic approach of Burma self-improvement course to strip away the hype of communal violence. 

    Burma is still in its indecisiveness in taking actions of what it believes, a solution to communal riots: designated safe area for Bengali Immigrants whose status of residency in Burma needs due process of naturalization of Burmese citizenship. Burma doesn’t have time to be impulse and impaired by international community and their media hype of tolerance. Immediate swift action is a must, go ahead and implement the earlier suggestion of president U Thein Sein – the pragmatic and viable solution – The designated Safe area for Bengali.    

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  5. nothing will be resolved until the burmese people are ready to deal with their racial and religious intolerance/ hatred. If their leaders, media, learning instituions, and buddhist organizations don’t come out and speak against this, the flames of hatred will continue to grow and spread. Reading the comments here from various people have shown the derogatory and xenophobic inclinations already entrenched in the burmese mindset. Comments from so called “burmese freedon fighters” using terms for muslims as bengalis (foreigners and sub-humans)  as if to justifiy their criminal actions will only lead to the burmese becoming the pariahs of the world. Worst of all, burma is already unraveling into various warring ethnic groups all because of the persecution of the Rohingyas. By saving the Rohingyas and giving their rights and citizenship back, burma will be saving itself. 

  6. One cannot blame the reform for old scars that hurt. Reform has to repair so many things in Burma!
    Referring to religious intolerance form the side of the Burmese people is flawed. I can understand the apprehension the Burmese people have as violence from the islamic world is by rule based on religious intolerance. This apprehension is now-a-days worldwide! The muslim leaders etc should come out (worldwide) and speak out/actively oppose this violence! If they do so, they will save the world!

  7. first step make a group of people into foreigners “the others”. Next step dehumanize them both in words and in actions (deny citizenship and basic human rights). Create a condition for them that they will have to fight back, and then use this excuse to label them as” terrorist”. Next step create a conspiracy theory of  world domination by the intended group (eg. jews and the zion of elders plan for world domination).Next cull their population down through violent means. When they revolt contain them in safe havens “for their own good and protection’. Once they are all in one area it is easier to exterminate them all. Then move on to the next ethnic group on the agenda. Repeat step one etc ..etc.. The key thing here is WORDING, how you label them (e.g. bengalis). But keep in mind the word must be extremely derogatory otherwise it will not have a chance to metastisize like a cancer into the ignorant and easily gullible masses mindset. — a recipe for genocide. CAUTION once you start it can not be stopped nor easily controlled. It will take on a momentum of its own and exterminate everyone else on its path. But at least burma will be ethnically pure then.

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