A New Dimension of Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State


A New Dimension of Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

What’s new? Arakan Army attacks on remote police outposts in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State left thirteen officers dead, prompting the government to order military “clearance operations” against the ethnic Rakhine insurgents. The looming violent escalation will be difficult to reverse – and will complicate efforts to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.
Why did it happen? Despite the main ethnic Rakhine party’s election victory in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi installed a minority National League for Democracy government in the state and the government imprisoned a popular Rakhine politician on high treason charges. These actions fuelled the belief among ethnic Rakhine that politics is failing them.

Why does it matter? Rising violence in Rakhine State will deepen the longstanding political crisis there and undermine prospects for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. It will also impede Myanmar’s broader peace process and political transition.

What should be done? The military, government and insurgents should exercise restraint and seek a negotiated solution to the violence to avoid further inflaming ethnic tensions. China should work to bring all sides to the negotiating table. The government should initiate dialogue with ethnic Rakhine representatives over key political, economic and social issues.