Crisis in Rakhine State

The crisis in northern Rakhine State has escalated dramatically in the past two weeks as conflict, displacement, razing of villages, killings and a litany of human rights violations have torn apart the region yet again. Breaking point has been reached and a human catastrophe is underway.

Attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 police stations and one army outpost on 25 August, 2017 left 10 policemen, one soldier and 59 militants dead. The response from the Myanmar[1] Army has been swift and brutal, engaging in operations that it claims will root out the militants, or as the Myanmar Government has labelled them, ‘terrorists.’ In the lead up to the ARSA attacks, the Myanmar Army had ramped up its presence in northern Rakhine State, deploying extra divisions as tensions were rising after increasing reports of murders of villagers in the preceding weeks and months.

The subsequent crackdown has caused massive displacement, the destruction of villages and hundreds of deaths. The Myanmar Army has claimed the deaths of 400 Rohingya militants but it is difficult to assess the real numbers and there are fears it could be in the thousands, including many civilians. Satellite imagery from Human Rights Watch (HRW) shows the burned houses of a largely Rohingya village, destroying 99% of buildings. HRW also stated that this is just one of 17 sites where villages had been burned. Another human rights organization, Fortify Rights, has documented testimony of a massacre of Rohingyas in Chut Pyin Village, leaving hundreds dead including shocking reports of beheadings, the killing of children and people being burned alive by the Myanmar Army.  Reports of abuses committed by ARSA against both Rakhine and Rohingya communities only add to this orgy of violence. Inevitably, displacement is huge and is ongoing. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 123,000 Rohingya have fled their villages in an attempt to make it to Bangladesh as of 5 September and up to 20,000 were trapped between the Bangladesh border and military operations area over the weekend. The Government has also evacuated nearly 12,000 ethnic Rakhine as well as Hindus.

“Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life.”

To make matters worse, humanitarian aid delivery has been blocked by authorities in certain areas while staff from humanitarian aid organizations had to be evacuated due to security reasons. This has severely impaired the ability of such aid organizations to provide essential medical services and food provisions to populations that are already extremely vulnerable. Many Rohingya are starving in their own homes due to the closure of markets and intimidation and threats by the authorities “who are clearly using food and water as a weapon” as stated by Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response. Starvation as a method of warfare is prohibited under customary international law. Tirana Hassan asserted that “Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people. By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life.”

Part of the reason that aid agencies had to evacuate was for the security of their own staff members after the Facebook page of the Office of the State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, alleged that staff from international aid agencies had assisted the ARSA in their attacks. This highly irresponsible and, as the US Ambassador stated, “absurd” claim, only adds to the environment of distorted claims and realities propagated as news. This in turn fuels destructive hate speech that exacerbates tensions, incites violence and tears Myanmar society apart. That the Myanmar Government has prohibited independent news and media outlets from access to the area to accurately report on the realities of northern Rakhine State obfuscates the picture. This has added to the problem of falsified news, doctored photos, fake social media accounts, and contrasting narratives while real control of information and disinformation is in the hands of the authorities.

The violence in northern Rakhine State is devastating to both communities. The fear of being killed, raped, houses being burned down, or having to leave home is a cycle that is getting worse as violence breeds violence. The Myanmar Army is one of the most violent and abusive military institutions in the world, and has imposed war, destruction, displacement and death on ethnic and religious minority communities throughout Myanmar for decades. Furthermore, it remains unaccountable to any civilian institution.

During the last clearance operation by the Myanmar Army after the October 2016 attacks by the ARSA – at that time known as al-Yaqin – a UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights flash report stated that there was a “very likely commission of crimes against humanity” against the Rohingya population. All indications from recent weeks show that the same is happening again but on a much larger scale.

The violence, however, must end. In the immediate term, it is essential that humanitarian agencies are allowed secure and unrestricted access to deliver essential aid to all vulnerable and suffering communities during this crisis. Meanwhile, independent media must be allowed to report and document the realities on the ground to counter the spread of falsified news and fake reports and reduce the fear-mongering that is currently widespread.

Myanmar is going down a dangerous path towards crimes that are rare and almost unspeakable. In recent years, the name Myanmar has evoked notions of hope and democratic transition in the world, but how much longer until this name is indelibly associated with the savagery and violence in Rakhine State?

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[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.

Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Advisory Commission on Rakhine State publishes Its Final Report “Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine”
By Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

ရခုိင္ျပည္နယ္တြင္ ေနထုိင္ၾကေသာ ျပည္သူလူထုမ်ားအတြက္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းမွ်တ၍ သာယာ၀ေျပာေသာ အနာဂတ္ေပၚထြန္းလာႏုိင္ေရးကုိ ဦးတည္လ်က္
By Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

Human Rights Council Must Urge Myanmar to Cooperate Fully with Fact-Finding Mission
By Amnesty International

Myanmar: Ministry of Defence’s Refusal to Relocate Military-owned Acid Factory Threatens Health of Local Community
By Amnesty International

Government Must Act on Rakhine Commission’s Recommendations
By Amnesty International

Burma: Rakhine Attacks Mark ‘a Dangerous Escalation in Violence’
By Amnesty International

APHR Statement on Developments in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Parliamentarians Urge Myanmar Authorities, ASEAN to Act to Protect Civilians in Rakhine State
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Rising Tensions in Rakhine State, Burma – Britain Must Seek UN Security Council Discussion
By Burma Campaign UK

Pressure Needed on Min Aung Hlaing to Halt Attacks on Rohingya Civilians
By Burma Campaign UK

Warning on the Use of Media and State Accounts to Inflame Rakhine Situation
By Burma Human Rights Network

Urgent: Help Needed for Over 30,000 Rohingya Trapped on Hillsides in Tha Win Chaung and Inn Din
By Burma Human Rights Network

Urgent Action Needed to Implement Rakhine Commission Recommendations
By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Fighting Breaks out In Northern Rakhine State Following Increased Tensions
By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Situation Update 29th August 2017 and Call for Urgent International Action

By Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Burma: CSW Calls for International Action on Rakhine State Following UN Security Council Discussion
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

European Union External Action: Statement by the Spokesperson on the Final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Myanmar
By European Union External Action

Burma/Myanmar – Advisory Commission on Rakhine State
By France Diplomatie

Myanmar: Implement Recommendations of Kofi Annan-led Commission
By Fortify Rights

Myanmar: End Attacks in Rakhine State, Protect Civilians
By Fortify Rights

Foreign Secretary calls for an end to violence in Rakhine
By Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Chairman Royce Urges De-escalation in Burma’s Rakhine State
By House Foreign Affairs Committee

Burma: Satellite Data Indicate Burnings in Rakhine State
By Human Rights Watch

Burma: Satellite Images Show Massive Fire Destruction
By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar Needs to Immediately End Persecution Against Rohingya
By Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation

UN Migration Agency (IOM) Calls for Restraint, More Aid for Civilians Fleeing Myanmar
By International Organization for Migration

Statement by Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State
By Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

New report: Pristine Valley on Kachin-China Border Under Threat from Naypyidaw’s Export-oriented Dam Plans
By Kachin Development Networking Group

ေနျပည္ေတာ္၏ တင္ပိုု႔မႈဦးစားေပး ေရကာတာစီမံကိန္းမ်ား၏ ၿခိမ္းေျခာက္မႈခံေနရေသာ ကခ်င္တရုုတ္နယ္စပ္ရွိ သဘာ၀အတိုုင္းလွပေနသည့္ ခ်ဳိင္၀ွမ္းလြင္ျပင္
By Kachin Development Networking Group

The KNO Calls the Government of Myanmar to Ratify the ICC Rome Statute
By Kachin National Organisation

Latest Burma Army War Crimes in Kachin State Highlight Urgent Need to End Military-to-Military Ties with Burma
By Kachin Women’s Association-Thailand

သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္။ ။ ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံတြင္ စစ္တပ္အခ်င္းခ်င္း စစ္ပဲြမ်ား ျဖစ္ပြားေနျခင္းကုိ ခ်က္ျခင္းရပ္ဆုိင္းရန္ လုိအပ္ေၾကာင္း ကခ်င္ျပည္နယ္အတြင္း ေနာက္ဆုံးျဖစ္ေပၚေနသည့္ ျမန္မာအစုိးရ စစ္တပ္၏ က်ဴးလြန္ေနေသာ စစ္ရာဇာ၀တ္မႈမ်ားက မီးေမာင္းထုိးျပေနသည္
By Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand

Refugees International Urges Implementation of Rakhine Commission Recommendations
By Refugees International

Refugees International Deeply Alarmed by Violence in Myanmar
By Refugees International

Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Myanmar
By Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General

Response from the British government to the latest crisis in Rakhine State
By The British Government, South East Asia Department

The Geneva Centre appeals for an end to the persecution of Rohingyans in Myanmar
By The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global

UNHCR Urges Open Borders for People Fleeing Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
By The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Attacks in Rakhine State and Release of the Rakhine Advisory Commission Report
By US Department of State

Alarming Deterioration in Northern Rakhine was Preventable, Zeid says, Urging Restraint
By UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad

Myanmar: Worsening Cycle of Violence in Rakhine Must be Broken Urgently, UN Expert Warns
By UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee

Condemning Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, UN Chief Urges Restraint
By United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

World Food Programme Statement On Northern Rakhine State
By World Food Programme

Statement of INGO’s in Myanmar
By 16 International NGOs in Myanmar

reports

Reports

Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State: Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine
By Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

အၿပီးသတ္အစီရင္ခံစာ။ ။ ရခုိင္ျပည္နယ္တြင္ ေနထုိင္ၾကေသာ ျပည္သူလူထုမ်ားအတြက္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းမွ်တ၍ သာယာ၀ေျပာေသာ အနာဂတ္ေပၚထြန္းလာႏုိင္ေရးကုိ ဦးတည္လ်က္
By Advisory Commission on Rakhine State

Burma Army Raids Kasung Village
By Free Burma Rangers

Saving the Ngo Chang Hka Valley
By Kachin Development Networking Group

ေငါ့ခ်မ္းခလြင္ျပင္ကိုု ထိန္းသိမ္းကာကြယ္ျခင္း
By Kachin Development Networking Group

KWO Three Year Report for 2014, 2015 and 2016
By Karen Women’s Organization

As Conflict Escalates in Shan State, Aid Must not be Cut off to Shan-Thai border Refugees
By Shan Human Rights Foundation


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.”

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