Myanmar’s political environment has been marked by the transition from military rule to a civilian Government in 2011. The change was underpinned by a historic dialogue between President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won 43 out of 45 seats in April 2012 by-elections. The United States of America and the European Union have responded by either lifting or suspending most of their economic sanctions.Though the new Parliament agreed to consider looking into a proposal to draft a new citizenship law and revoke the current Myanmar Citizenship Law, which could improve the status of a large group of residents in Rakhine State and other people without citizenship in the country,but doing nothing to keep the promise,which resulted in escalation of ethnic violence.One needs to know about the internal conflicts in Myanmar to understand the current situation.
Internal Conflicts in Myanmar
The internal conflict in Myanmar dates back to 1948 when Myanmar got Independence. Since then many governments have been in the web of ethnic violence. Myanmar is home to many ethnic races; of them major ethnic groups are Rohingyas, Rakhine Buddhists, Shans, Chins, Karens and Kachins.
Ethnic Groups of Myanmar
Rohingyas: Rohingya is a generic term referring to the Sunni Muslim inhabitants of Arakan, the historical name of a Myanmar border region which has a long history of isolation from the rest of the country.Perhaps they the most exploited minority in Myanmar have been refused citizenship by the Burmese government since 1982 when the military junta implemented a citizenship law. At the root of the persecution is the question of citizenship. The Myanmar government considers all Rohingya to be immigrants from Bangladesh. They are denied citizenship under discriminatory national legislation from 1982, although many families have resided in Myanmar for generations. Official government statements reject their very existence and refer to them as “Bengali,” “so-called Rohingya,” or the pejorative “kalar.” As a consequence, the stateless Rohingyas, who number around 800,000 in western Burma and physically resemble Bengalis, are prime targets for forced-labor drives by the junta. Since the military took power in 1962, hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand, where their illegal-immigrant status makes them vulnerable to labor abuses.
Rakhine People: These are predominantly ethnic Buddhist people living in the western coast of Rakhine state (erstwhile Arakan State). They possibly constitute 5.53% of Myanmar’s total population. They claim to be one of the first groups to become followers of the Buddha in Southeast Asia. The Arakanese culture is similar to the dominant Burmese culture but with more Indian influence, likely due to its geographical isolation from the Burmese mainland divided by the Rakhine Roma and closer proximity to South Asia. Traces of Indian influence remain in many aspects of Arakanese culture, including its literature, music, and cuisine.
Nature of Myanmar’s Communal Violence
Rakhine State-Notorious for ethnic Violence
In 2012 widespread rioting and brutal clashes between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims took place.It was the rape and murder of a young Buddhist , which had sparked off the deadly chain of events. Violence escalated as Muslims and Buddhists attacked each other. Entire Muslim neighborhoods were razed and about 12,000 Muslims have fled their homes. The rioting also spread to other towns in the area.In the melee many Rohingyas fled and crossed the border with Bangladesh.
On October 23 in Yan Thei, Mrauk-U Township, security forces took away sticks and other rudimentary weapons from Rohingya and enabled an Arakanese mob to kill about 70 villagers, including 28 children, 13 of whom were under age five.
Rohingyas Fleeing their Homeland
Today, tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya are being denied access to humanitarian aid, have their movements restricted, and are unable to return home. They live in segregated, squalid camps without adequate food and health services. Lack of citizenship and enjoyment of basic rights, plus restrictive policies and discriminatory practices by local authorities, are the main protection and livelihood problems faced by Muslim residents of Rakhine State. Essential services such as health care, water, sanitation and education are woefully inadequate and in most cases non-existent.UNHRC said more than 400 died or went missing during sea journeys so far this year, and those who survive often landed in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.The UNHRC urged the Myanmar government and the international community to step up efforts to promote reconciliation and economic development in the state of Rakhine, and also pursue practical measures to ensure basic human rights so that the Rohingya, or Bengali-speaking Myanmar Muslim ethnic minorities, can lead normal lives.