As well as representing a human rights and humanitarian crisis in its own right, the ongoing Rohingya migrant crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh demonstrates the linkages between unresolved internal conflicts, mass displacement and wider instability in Australia’s region. In its latest worldwide threat assessment, published in February 2018, the United States Director of National Intelligence concluded that the mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh ‘will threaten Burma’s [Myanmar] fledgling democracy, increase the risk of violent extremism and provide openings for Beijing to expand its influence’.
The current crisis followed a series of attacks on 25 August 2017 on 30 police facilities in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in northwest Rakhine State by a militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). These attacks reportedly killed 12 members of the Myanmar security forces. ARSA, which is known locally as Harakah al-Yaqin (‘Faith Movement’), is described as a ‘small, underequipped group that has struggled to mount significant military operations’. The group also claimed responsibility for ambush attacks in January 2018 in Rakhine which left three Myanmar security personnel wounded.