Rakhine, Rohingya leaders should take immediate steps to defuse tensions: International Crisis Group

Last Updated on May 27, 2024 11:41 pm

With the war in Myanmar escalating as both Junta and rebels make gains and losses. The Rohingya people have once again been caught in the crossfire. Despite the Arakan Army(AA) attempting to improve relations with the Rohingya before November 2023, however, recent events have put that peace at risk.

The Myanmar military has most actively inflamed inter-communal tensions in northern Rakhine and could most easily defuse them, it is unlikely to do so. The Arakan Army’s unhelpful statements, together with allegations of human rights abuses, are making an already tense situation worse, says the International Crisis Group.

The AA needs to start building bridges with the Rohingya or they will likely face their own insurgencies should they achieve victory in Myanmar. Considering their recent anti-rohingya rhetoric, building trust can start by no longer using the term “Bengali” in reference to them. The Rohingya consider this a slur since it implies they are recent immigrants and not a local ethnicity. Offering the Rohingya rights long denied to them by the Myanmar state such as freedom of movement, economic opportunities and access to essential services would be a strong first step.

Additionally integrating Rohingyas into the AAs administrative framework would help build trust between the communities. Regular dialogue between AA commanders and Rohingya leaders is essential to address and overcome mutual distrust. Despite the challenges posed by the lack of unified Rohingya leadership, these conversations are a step towards sustainable peace.

Bangladesh has a significant role to play in facilitating dialogue and ensuring the safety of Rohingya refugees. Preventing Rohingya armed groups from recruiting within refugee camps and cutting off their funding and weapons supply would reduce the risk of a Rohingya insurgency, which would only worsen and lengthen the conflict.

Rohingya leaders must discourage their community from taking up arms. They play a critical role in shaping perceptions and must consider the broader goal of building relations with the AA. Avoiding fiery rhetoric that would worsen tension between the ethnic communities is also vitally important.

The AA must also consider the international scrutiny over rights violations in Rakhine. This includes ongoing investigations into human rights violations and the consequences that would result, as any involvement in abuses could significantly harm their standing locally and internationally.

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