Escalating Conflict in Rakhine, Shan, and Kachin States Topples Prospects for Peace

November 23rd, 2016  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  6 minute read
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“350 killed, 300 injured, many dozens of women raped, hundreds of people arrested on concocted charges, and 3500 houses, including four villages, were burned down or destroyed”

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation
A new round of calls were sent last week to the Myanmar[1] Government, the international community and ASEAN Heads of States for an intervention in the escalating situation in Rakhine State. In response to an attack on a border guard headquarters on 9 October, 2016, security operations have intensified throughout the region and have resulted in numerous reports of atrocities being committed against Rohingya civilians – the purported identity of the attackers – by members of the Myanmar Army. According to the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation, the security crackdown between 9 October to 13 November has resulted in “350 killed, 300 injured, many dozens of women raped, hundreds of people arrested on concocted charges, and 3500 houses, including four villages, were burned down or destroyed,” along with a further 30,000 people displaced as a result of the violence, a number that has also been reported by the UN. These events have drawn “deep concern” from Kofi Annan, the chair of the newly created international advisory commission on Rakhine State, who urged members of Myanmar’s security forces to comply with the rule of law. In addition, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar has urged for immediate action, while cautioning that the “security forces must not be given carte blanche to step up their operations under the smokescreen of having allowed access to an international delegation.”

Charles Santiago, representing the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, expressed a similar statement. Santiago urged the international community to intervene in Rakhine State so as to avoid a situation with “clear regional implications” – predicting that the state-sponsored persecution and violence would contribute as push factors for human trafficking. In fact, reports have already surfaced that hundreds of Rohingya have attempted to flee into neighboring Bangladesh, along with allegations that the military has been openly firing upon the escaping asylum-seekers. As a result, the ongoing situation has already been compared to the May 2015 boat crisis, in which thousands of Rohingya were left stranded in the Andaman Sea after attempting to escape the persecution they faced in Myanmar.

As the crisis reaches breaking point in Rakhine State, conflict looms throughout other regions of the country. In a new report, titled “A Far Cry from Peace,” the Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand (KWAT) has illuminated the increasing militarization of the Myanmar Army throughout Kachin State as they wage an unrelenting campaign against the Kachin Independence Army. In the past year, as a result of the actions of the Myanmar Army, KWAT has documented 21 cases of torture, seven incidents of extrajudicial killing or forced disappearance, 25 incidents of arbitrary arrest or detention, wide scale property destruction and looting, and indiscriminate shelling. Understandably, the conflict has contributed to the displacement of tens of thousands of Kachin civilians.

In Shan State, Myanmar Army operations against the Ta’ang National Liberation Army have also resulted in atrocities against civilians, including arbitrary arrest, torture, murder and their use as human shields in conflict. An intensified level of conflict in the region since 29 October, 2016 is likely to produce further victims and human rights violations in the near future.

Dr. Cynthia Maung, the respected humanitarian behind the renowned Mae Tao Clinic located on the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand and recent recipient of the AidEx Humanitarian Hero of the Year Award, summarized the concerns of those currently displaced as a result of conflict throughout Myanmar. She stated,

“Fighting along the borders is still going on. That has left thousands of people displaced as a result and there hasn’t been much improvement in regions still controlled by the military […] those especially from ethnic minorities remain very anxious about their future. They want to see if the government in Burma will be all inclusive.”

Declaring a “time for change” from the previous government’s less-than democratic leadership, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party promised an inclusive peace process that would pave the way for national reconciliation. Yet, by failing to hold the Myanmar Army accountable for human rights violations – or at the least prevent it from further abuses and conflict, as is the case in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States – Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s attempt at national reconciliation has only contributed to a declining prospect for peace. The result of the failure to prevent these ongoing atrocities will likely result in further obstacles in the way of a sustainable peace, such as an unrelenting exodus of asylum seekers and a worsening humanitarian situation inside the country. Without an inclusive solution to peace, one that holds all parties to the conflict accountable and creates room for dialogue with historically disenfranchised groups like the Rohingya, Myanmar is likely to fall short in producing any meaningful change.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.



Statements and Press Releases

Regional parliamentarians renew call for investigation into Rakhine State violence
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Rohingya are being Destroyed, ‘Full Security and Protection’ Most Urgent
By Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

႐ိုဟင္ဂ်ာလူမ်ိဳးစုမ်ား သုတ္သင္ျခင္းခံေနရ၊ လံုၿခံဳေရးႏွင့္ အကာအကြယ္ ျပည့္ျပည့္ဝဝ အျမန္ဆံုးလိုအပ္
By Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

Kachin Women Expose Ongoing Burma Army Abuses Under NLD Government
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT)

ျငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရး ေနာက္ကြယ္မွ ငိုေၾကြးသံ
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT)

Statement by Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State on the recent violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar
By Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

Myanmar: UN expert warns of worsening rights situation after “lockdown” in Rakhine State
By  United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Suspend negotiations for an investment protection agreement between the EU and Myanmar
By 209 Myanmar, European and other Civil Society Organizations



Faith That Can Save Mountains
By Free Burma Rangers

Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, November 2015 to February 2016
By Karen Human Rights Group

A Far Cry From Peace: Ongoing Burma Army Offensives and Abuses in Northern Burma Under the NLD Government
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT)

ျငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးေနာက္ကြယ္မွ ငိုေကြ်းသံ။ ။ အမ်ဳိးသားဒီမိုကေရစီအဖြဲ႕ခ်ဳပ္ အစိုးရလက္ထက္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံ ေျမာက္္ပိုင္းအတြင္း ဆက္လက္ျဖစ္ေပၚေနေသာ တပ္မေတာ္၏ ထိုးစစ္ဆင္မႈမ်ားႏွင့္ ခ်ဳိးေဖာက္မႈမ်ား
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT)

PSLF/TNLA Review on Battles in Ta’ang Region
By Palaung State Liberation Front

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”