This paper surveys the issues and regional responses, including that of Australia, surrounding the current conflict and humanitarian situation in Rakhine state, Myanmar.
The plight of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya people has received renewed international attention over the past year as a result of ongoing sectarian violence and displacement in the country’s western state of Rakhine. A report published in The Economist in November 2012 provides a compelling summary of the Rohingya’s plight:
The political transformation in Myanmar this past year or more has so far seemed one of history’s more remarkable revolutions. It has seemed, indeed, to be a revolution without losers. The army, which brutalised the country for half a century, remains influential and unpunished. Political prisoners have been freed by the hundreds. The opposition and its heroine, Aung San Suu Kyi, have successfully entered mainstream politics.
One group, however, has lost, and lost terribly. Around 1m members of the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority remain in Myanmar’s impoverished western state of Rakhine. They are survivors of relentless rounds of persecution that have created a diaspora around the world that is perhaps twice as big … Rakhine politicians say frankly that the only alternative to mass deportation is a Burmese form of apartheid, in which more Rohingyas are corralled into squalid, semi-permanent internal-refugee camps.
This Research Paper surveys the issues and regional responses, including that of Australia, surrounding the current conflict and humanitarian situation in Rakhine state.
It argues that while the ongoing humanitarian emergency presents the most pressing concern for Myanmar, its neighbours and its international partners, the conflict also highlights an intensification of a dangerous uncertainty surrounding the future place of the Rohingya, and possibly Muslims more generally, within a multi-ethnic and plural Myanmar. This uncertainty threatens Myanmar’s current reform process and, through the large-scale displacement of communities, undermines wider regional security.