EXPERT VIEWS-How to solve the escalating violence in Myanmar?

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 25 November 2016 12:06 GMT

Protesters hold signs during a demonstration against what organisers say is the crackdown on ethnic Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

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Rohingya residents and human rights groups accuse the military and border guard forces of raping Rohingya women, torching houses and killing civilians

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The conflict in Myanmar's northwestern state of Rakhine has sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, and has killed at least 86 people and displaced some 30,000 so far.

Soldiers have poured into the area along Myanmar's frontier with Bangladesh, responding to coordinated attacks on three border posts on Oct. 9 that killed nine police officers.

Rohingya residents and human rights groups accuse the military and border guard forces of raping Rohingya women, torching houses and killing civilians during operations there. The Myanmar government and military deny the accusations.

It is the most serious bloodshed in Rakhine since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in 2012.

The violence has renewed pressure on Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's administration to address the plight of the 1.1 million Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and access to basic services.

How can Myanmar put an end to the violence? Here are what experts said:

Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific regional director at the International Commission of Jurists:

The NLD (the National League for Democracy government) should publicly call for an investigation and for the protection of the human rights of all people in Myanmar. Unless it uses its mandate to call for the equal treatment of Rohingya people, human rights violations could escalate, further tarnishing the NLD's image and engraining discrimination.

In the long term, all people who live in Rakhine state - both the (Buddhist) Rakhine and Muslim populations - must enjoy human rights, including citizenship, access to education, healthcare and justice. The NLD must be the voice of reason rather than of discrimination.

Lilianne Fan, humanitarian and conflict expert on Myanmar and Asia:

While the Myanmar government has a right, of course, to react with force to insurgent attacks, the brutal way in which this operation is being conducted has generated scathing condemnations from the international community and has called into questions the extent to which Daw Aung San Syu Kyi and her NLD government can control the military.

This unwillingness by the NLD government to critique the conduct of the military is exceedingly dangerous and will lead to thousands more falling victim to military violence and to a deepening humanitarian crisis. While the areas under military operation have been under lockdown since October 9 over the past few days hundreds of refugees finally made it to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not welcoming them and has even pushed hundreds back across the border to Myanmar. It is highly likely that we will soon see another outflow of Rohingya refugees to other countries in the region.

Daniel Sullivan, senior advocate at Refugees International:

The escalating violence in Rakhine State can best be solved by allowing access to international observers and humanitarian aid. An independent international investigation is needed to address the grave abuses being reported out of the country and to deter further abuses. The current violence is occurring in a vacuum of impunity in which neutral reporting and, more importantly, life-saving aid are being denied.

Punishing the general Rohingya population by cutting off aid and denying credible neutral reporting only sets the stage for further death and suffering.

Charles Santiago, Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights:

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needs to abandon its consensus and non-interference approach and perceive the ongoing problem as a regional problem. It would require some ASEAN disciplining of Myanmar ... the time for that has arrived.

Julia Mayerhofer, deputy secretary-general of Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

We have been looking at the role of regional players such as ASEAN and the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Transnational Crime. ASEAN, which is crippled by its principle of non-interference, must wake up and engage in humanitarian advocacy as well as provide constructive support.

Champa Patel, Amnesty International's South Asia Director:

Accounts of human rights violations must immediately be investigated in a genuinely independent impartial and efficient way. The only real solution, both in the short and long terms, lies in respect for the human rights of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Long-term, entrenched and systemic discrimination against Rohingya must end.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

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