Authorities in Myanmar say close to 100 people have been killed since Friday when armed men, reportedly from the ArakanRohynga Salvation Army (ARSA), launched a pre-dawn raid on police outposts in the conflict region and this has been the main cause of the latest violence in Arakan. According to one report, “The army has declared a war against ‘terrorism’, encircling the townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung, home to around 800,000 people, and imposed a curfew from dusk to dawn” perhaps to deepen further its military actions upon the most persecuted and forgotten community, caged.

Rights groups have reportedthat close to 800 men, women and children have been killed and the latest violence has also triggered another refugee surge across the border towards Bangladesh. The recently published photo of a drowned and floating Rohynga baby reveals the state of desperateness that has afflicted the fleeting Rohyngas.

Satellite data accessed by the Human Rights Watch confirms the current carnage. It shows “widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, following a military crackdown on the country’s Rohingya Muslim population.”

Rohyngas accuse Myanmar government and report that in the broad day light and also during night, in the cover of curfew “soldiers are shooting indiscriminately at unarmed men, women and children and carrying out arson attacks”. Myanmar authorities however, blame ARSA “extremist terrorists” for the killings and also for the fires.

However,given Myanmar’s past record it is not hard to sense the truth and also the fact that Myanmar government would not allow any neutral monitors on the ground confirms the claims of carnage made by both Rohyngas as well as the rights groups. Furthermore, de facto head of Myanmar government, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Su Kyi’s denial of the claims and her refusal to meet any journalist that asks questions about Royngas is an indication of Myanmar government’s discomfort with the truth.

Until now Myanmar government has been pretty consistent in its treatment of Rohyngas – persistent persecution, insistent denial and systematic refusal to permit neutral probe. Looks like Myanmar’s ultimate aim is to kill and frighten the Rohyngas so that they depopulate themselves from the region on their own accord. With international inaction and apathy, this looks more and more like a looming possibility. UN agrees, it believes that Myanmar army’s response amounts to “ethnic cleansing”.

In all these, sudden appearance of ARSA (ArakanRohynga Salvation Army) in the scene is worrying if not intriguing.

We don’t know much about ASRA. Is this something that has emerged out of desperation from within or is this something that has been engineered by the authority? ASRA’s spokesman however claims that it is a force from within created to “to defend, salvage and protect Rohingya community in Arakan with our best capacities as we have the legitimate right under international law to defend ourselves in line with the principle of self-defense.”Available information suggests that like the Tamil Tigers its sponsors are expatriate Rohyngas.

While I fully support ASRA’s motivation and their resolve to fight for the cause of Rohynga salvation, they have to be careful how they pursue their goals. Understandably, they have only limited resources and with non-existent international support they can at the most kill and injure few Myanmar soldiers but by no means their actions would make Myanmar authority neither capitulatenor compromise. On the other hand, as is conceivable, Myanmar government’s response to their misadventures would be harsh and would intensify miseries of the very people that they are trying to ‘defend’. Furthermore and this is something that ASRA needs to consider carefully, that their actions may now provide perfect raison d’etre to Myanmar government to justify, indeed morally, its violence. As Rohyngas are Muslims, in the current international political climate of Islamophobia, it would be only too easy to paint ARSA and by extension, the wider Rohyngas as ‘Islamic Terrorists’and thus turn victims into villains and real villains into virtuous. Rohyngas will be like the Palestinians, demonized and persecuted with impunity and with twisted morality!

In the recent melee, the real loser – morally that is – seems to be Bangladesh. Unlike Thailand which has opened its border to Rohyngya refugees Bangladesh has proposed joint military operations with Myanmar Army against the Rohingya fighters. Sadly, instead of finding a permanent solution for the RohyngasBangladesh is opting to do the most despicable – join the persecutors to in killing mission.

Myanmar has tried violence as remedy of Rohynga issue for the last several decades with no effect and more violence is unlikely to give them anything better. However, Myanmar’s addiction to violent persecutiondrives one home truth, solution will not come from them. It has to come from outside. International community has to play a much stronger role, otherwise as someonehas argued recently,  “like other stateless and unrepresented Muslims, [the Rohingyas] are at risk of producing a persistent terrorist threat” that at the end would not only destabilize Myanmar but also its neighbours.

Thusgiven Myanmar government’s consistent refusal to do something more conciliatory and dignified about the issueand also given that it even denies any wrong-doingsuggests that conventional diplomacy would not work. Something “out-of-the-ordinary” is needed and again,  given trust deficits on both sides it may behelpful if not more permanent to explore possibilities of setting up an autonomous unit for Rohyngasin areas where most of them live and administer it under the joint governance of a UN peace-keeping force (or a multi-national regional force – Malaysia has indicated its intention to join a regional solution)anda civilian administration made up of Rohingyas and Myanmar authorities – aone-country-two-system solution.

 The author is a former senior UN policy manager

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  1. Farooque Chowdhury says:

    The article says: “a one-country-two-system solution.” Myanmar is not China; and the area isn’t Hong Kong. The China-Hong Kong one-country-two-systems formula had a different background and a different power equation. There’s no such possibility. Shall Myanmar accept this proposal? What shall the precedent carry? Tomorrow, India will have to accept such a “two -system” solution in its north-west and in north-east. The day after tomorrow, China will have to follow the precedent in its western region. Shall these countries allow such intervention? Shall Turkey allow such a precedent? Shall Pakistan allow this in Baluchistan? A lot of people are aware of the origin of such moves. China and India are not fools. Even, Russia is not inclined to such dreams. Rather, they are fully aware of these moves and origin of such moves although a group of progressives and neo-“anti”-imperialists are looking for rights. The developments in Syria stands as a lesson.The world has changed on a small scale, if not big, but, with a certain bold meaning. Public perception has changed significantly. Myanmar ruling elites have a history of facing insurgency for long period. The state faced a number of insurgencies simultaneously in different parts of the country. Rather, the elite has got a chance to fan up its nationalistic fervor. There’s every possibility that someone is playing with not double, but triple plans, and group of simple people, mostly poor and weak are taking shape of cannon-fodder. Things are grim, really grim. The same bread isn’t sold all the time in all the markets. There’s possibility that hands of certain deep state will experience an ineffective-reality, or the hands have a different plan. Probably, a people will find one day in future: generations went in vain, probably a people will be more ostracized. It will be a sad experience.

  2. Farooque Chowdhury says:

    The article says: “risk of producing a persistent terrorist threat”.

    The potential doesn’t exist all the time everywhere. One can easily recollect a certain period in the Palestine people’s struggle: Munich, Entebbe, cruise ship, even attempts on the life of Arafat more than many times, Abu Nidal and similar, one group patronized by intelligence agency of country “x” while another by intelligence agency of country “y”, and all against Arafat. The names are well known. One can recall the Shatila massacre. What’s the dream there in the Palestine refugee camp and its sister camp, the two that experienced the massacre? Even, Arafat’s exit through Tripoli port after a courageous fight in Beirut can be recalled. None was there to stand by them at the time. These are known to all. Once, it was told that the ME would flare up if anything happens to the Palestine people. And, the material support the PLO received? Not a small amount. This is also known to all. Now, please pay a look at the political changes within the politics in the region, within the Palestine people and their movemet – tired, exhausted, without direction, very few in hand to have a bargain. The equation has changed. Some one can say: “yes, changed, but in a small way, if not in a big way.” What’s the size of this “small”? Please, pay attention to the changes Hamas has made in its political document and the friendship it is trying to establish. Was their a requirement, if not compulsion? What’s that? Please, pay attention to the Gaza people, the people in the world’s biggest open air prison, their present aspiration; look at the Palestine people’s present aspiration. Adventures have not brought any thing but destruction of material life and moral strength. Encouraging adventures failed to bring anything but frustration. Factual, i repeat, factual, evidences are there. These are only a few examples from a lot. The two intelligence agencies cited above have a complete different agenda now as the reality has changed. Moreover, they don’t have the capacity. Belt is being tightened in Palestine as sources of money are drying up. Enemy of yesterday is being embraced as friend, and there’s competition in this courtship. This is reality. Getting angry with reality is foolish as foolish is inability to learn from reality. ‘Boycott … goods’ has made a loss, which amounts to less than one hour’s GDP of the targetted economy. Investment in the economy has increased. How much? It should be checked. And, a lot, and a lot are there. Al Jazeera now-a-days carries article on Das Capital. A group of supremacists sound “anti”-imperialsim, a group of supremacists take appearance of “heavy” anti-Trump warriors. For some, things are grim, really grim. All the time is not a tea-time, all seasons are not spring, and all statements are not theories as all analyses are not analyses.