Inclusivity and Protection Imperative in Rakhine State

June 2nd, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
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The AA’s leadership, as it claims control of increasingly large areas of Rakhine State, must ensure the protection of all civilians and communities, in line with international humanitarian law, and take steps towards reconciliation that were beginning to occur before the latest intensification of violence.

As Rakhine State burns, Rohingya communities remain stuck in the middle of a vicious, complex, and brutal war of liberation as the junta seeks to obfuscate and divide the two major populations of Rakhine. Given the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding for Rohingya, Rakhine, and other ethnic communities, aid agencies and other international actors must urgently respond to the intensifying crisis to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the many tens of thousands of displaced. They must work cooperatively and transparently with Rohingya and Rakhine civil societies and community leaders whilst pushing for cross-border aid to pass through Bangladesh.

Rakhine State is historically one of the poorest in Myanmar and has experienced extreme violence in the past decade. A legacy of colonialism, decades of state-sponsored discrimination, deprivation and inequality, campaigns of hate speech and incitement to violence, intersecting with a global narrative on ‘Islamic terrorism’ have created deep rifts within Rakhine State between the Rakhine and the Rohingya, the two main ethnic groups in the state, as well as other minority groups. The recent war of liberation of the state by the Arakan Army (AA) as they seek self-determination is understandably widely supported by the Rakhine population and beyond. However, in recent months, the junta’s forced recruitment of Rohingya youth in Rakhine State, its cooperation with Rohingya armed gangs to recruit Rohingya refugees from the camps in Bangladesh, its instigation of anti-AA protests, and the instrumentalization of these recruits to burn Rakhine homes have set the stage for yet another bloody chapter in recent Rohingya history, putting them in the firing line of the armed conflict.

It is a tragic irony that the Rohingya, a group that has been the victim of genocide, that have had their basic rights to education, healthcare, marriage, citizenship, movement, and even childbirth denied by successive military juntas and civilian governments, are now being enticed, cajoled, and forced by the junta to be a pawn in their cynical military strategy against the AA. Furthermore, the groups that the junta is reported to partner with–Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, and the Arakan Rohingya Army–have been denounced by Rohingya civil society organizations and activists as nothing more than armed criminal gangs that do not represent the Rohingya community. That these groups are helping the junta to forcibly recruit Rohingya just adds one more layer to the Rohingya’s desperate plight. The actions of these illegitimate groups should not be reflective of the whole Rohingya community, whose acute vulnerability has been systematically exploited by those in power for decades, in addition to the discrimination and persecution that they have faced.

Set in this longstanding context of political grievance and divide-and rule strategy of the junta, as the AA took the town of Buthidaung, reports indicate that the deliberate targeting and burning down of Rohingya homes by AA soldiers on 17 May have forcibly displaced tens of thousands of Rohingya residents. Rohingya people have been forced to sleep in open fields with no access to medicine, clean water, and adequate food. Many have lost direct contact with their families due to a telecommunication blackout imposed by the junta, while some have experienced the AA taking away their phones.

A statement by nearly 200 revolutionary groups and civil society organizations from Myanmar, including Progressive Voice, urges the AA to carry out an independent investigation into this incident. More broadly speaking, a statement from Rohingya organizations calls on the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, as well as the UN-mandated Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) to “immediately begin investigations into the current crisis.” The IIMM has released a statement asserting that it is “closely monitoring the escalation in fighting in Rakhine State,” and is “assessing if crimes against humanity or war crimes have been committed.”

It is clear that the junta has instigated its divide-and-rule strategy to create tensions and now violence between the AA and the Rohingya. And while this violence that stems from the junta’s instigation undoes some of initial steps towards reconciliation in Rakhine State, the AA is not an actor without agency. Inflammatory public remarks by AA’s leader, as well as the credible reports of looting, arson, and possible massacres committed by his troops against the Rohingya are not to be discounted. Since the AA is the most powerful actor in Rakhine State, especially after recent victories on the battlefield and liberation of towns and whole townships, it is imperative that it takes responsibility for the protection of all civilians in areas under its control.

While there is an urgent need to address the rights violations, the delivery of humanitarian aid to communities is urgently and desperately needed. Yet delivering aid through the junta is not an option here. The junta does not have the access to northern Rakhine State, and any pretense that they can facilitate access for aid agencies is disingenuous. Informal networks of Rohingya community can provide channels for humanitarian aid, as can Rakhine civil society, and these groups must have the freedom and protection to carry out their essential lifesaving work. The Bangladesh Government, with the help of the international community, must facilitate cross-border channels to alleviate the suffering of all affected civilians in Rakhine State.

The AA’s leadership, as it claims control of increasingly large areas of Rakhine State, must ensure the protection of all civilians and communities, in line with international humanitarian law, and take steps towards reconciliation that were beginning to occur before the latest intensification of violence. The people of Myanmar and their Spring Revolution have demonstrated a commitment to inclusivity which includes the Rohingya; a deepening of understanding among different groups, especially those most marginalized; and a will to create a new nation that is a clear break from the decades of violent authoritarianism and divide-and-rule amid Myanmar’s myriad of ethnic and religious groups. Now more than ever, these principles must be put into practice to protect one of the most marginalized and violently persecuted ethnic groups in the world.

Meanwhile, the international community must step up and take urgent actions that are necessary for the protection of the remaining 600,000 Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The UNSC must hold an emergency open meeting, as called for last month by Women’s Peace Network, on the escalating violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine State and ensure there is not another wave of violence similar to the genocide of 2017.


[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


Statements and Press Releases

Rohingya Facing Existential Threat in Arakan

By 28 Rohingya Organizations

ရိုဟင်ဂျာလူမျိုးစုများသည် ရခိုင်ပြည်တွင် ဖြစ်တည်မှုအတွက် ခြိမ်းခြောက်မှုအန္တရာယ်ကို ရင်ဆိုင်နေရ

By 28 Rohingya Organizations

Joint Statement by 195 revolutionary forces and civil society organizations on the situation in Northern Rakhine

By 195 Revolutionary Forces and Civil Society Organizations

ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ် မြောက်ပိုင်း အခြေအနေများနှင့် ပက်သက်ပြီး တော်လှန်ရေး အင်အားစုများနှင့် အရပ်ဘက် အဖွဲ့အစည်း ၁၉၅ ဖွဲ့၏ သဘောထား ပူးတွဲ ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By 195 Revolutionary Forces and Civil Society Organizations

Perpetrators of Attacks on Rohingya in Buthidaung Must Be Held Accountable

By Burma Human Rights Network

ပြည်သူလူထုအား အသိပေးကြေညာခြင်း

By General Strike Committee

Myanmar: Unlawful attacks resulting in mass casualties to civilians and destruction of infrastructure in Rakhine State must end

By International Commission of Jurists

Statement on the Escalation of Conflict in Rakhine State, Myanmar

By Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၊ ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်တွင် ပိုမိုပြင်းထန်လာသော ပဋိပက္ခနှင့်စပ်လျဥ်း၍ ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

Karen BGF/KNA Regional Criminal Network Exposed

By Justice For Myanmar

လက်ရှိဖြစ်ပေါ်ပြောင်းလဲနေသော ကရင်နီပြည်၏ စစ်ရေးနှင့် နိုင်ငံရေးအခြေ အနေများအပေါ် အရပ်ဖက်အဖွဲ့အစည်းများ၏ ရပ်တည်ချက်သဘောထား

By Karenni Human Rights Group

Position Statement of Civil Society Organization on the Current and Changing Military and Political Situation in Karenni State

By Karenni Human Rights Group

Statement on the situation in Buthidaung, Northern Rakhine

By National Unity Government

ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်မြောက်ပိုင်း၊ ဘူးသီးတောင်မြို့နယ်အခြေအနေနှင့်စပ်လျဥ်း၍ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Government

Myanmar: Growing human rights crisis in Rakhine state

By Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

On the Situation in Burma’s Rakhine State

By U.S. Department of State

Joint Statement on the Ongoing Conflict in Myanmar

By United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom and European Union



Update on Journalism and Media Safety in Myanmar

By Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization

April 2024 – Digital Hate Monthly Report (Eng / Myan)

Burma Human Rights Network

The Karen Border Guard Force/Karen National Army Criminal Business Network Exposed

By Justice For Myanmar

Aerial Attacks Carried out by the Military Council (4)

By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica

စစ်ကောင်စီ၏လေကြောင်းအသုံးပြုတိုက်ခိုက်မှုများ လေ့လာမှုအစီရင်ခံစာ (၄)

By Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica

SAC airstrikes, shelling and landmines kill seven villagers, injure twenty in Nawngkhio township, injure three in Mong Mit township, northern Shan State

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

စစ်ကောင်စီတပ်၏ လက်နက်ကြီး ပစ်ခတ်မှု၊ လေကြောင်းတိုက်ခိုက်မှုများကြောင့် ရှမ်းပြည်မြောက်ပိုင်း နောင်ချို မြို့နယ်တွင် အရပ်သား (၉) ဦးသေဆုံး(၂၀)ဦးဒဏ်ရာရကာ မိုးမိတ်မြို့နယ်တွင် ၃ ဦး ဒဏ်ရာရခဲ့

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Voices of the Displaced: Perspectives of newly arrived Myanmar refugees in Thailand

By The Border Consortium

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.”