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Clashes between army and law enforcement agencies with the Rohingya Muslims Muslims in Rakhine State (Arakan) continue in the west part of Myanmar. Since the end of August, law enforcement and military personnel have killed over a thousand Rohingya Muslims and burned 2.6 thousand villages. They burn children alive and rape women. Over a few days, from 35,000 to 60,000 people fled to the neighboring Bangladesh. The reason for ethnic cleansing was the attack, carried out on August 25 by militants from Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, against the military base in Rakhine State and 20 police stations. The authorities of Myanmar consider Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army a terrorist organization.
Vicious circle of Buddhist chaos
Ethno-religious conflicts, accompanied by ethnic cleansing, mass exodus of refugees – these are common things for Myanmar – former British colony in South-East Asia. The conflict with the Rohingya Muslims is not the only example. In 1948-2012, Myanmar was beset by a bloody civil war between the central government of the generals of Ne Win and Than Shwe and distinctive ethnoses in the provinces. All these ethnic groups did not have time to get rid of the tribal system and, at the time of Myanmar's independence, organized separatist movements and began to wage a guerrilla war for the creation of their states. The central government tried to restore order in the provinces with the help of military force.
Myanmar is one of the least developed economies in the world, despite the availability of natural gas and non-ferrous metals. The country is infected with corruption. The impoverished population in rural areas earns for a living by growing opium poppy. Myanmar is one of the largest producers of opiates and one of the biggest players in the global market for illicit drug trafficking.
After the victory in the 2010 parliamentary elections of the dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the central government managed to reach an agreement with all ethnic groups on ending the civil war and preserving the territorial integrity of Myanmar. Reforms and the fight against drug trafficking are being carried out, and foreign investments are attracted. The country has established contracts with the West and China. However, there is no stability in Myanmar.
Myanmar is dominated by the ideology of Buddhist nationalism and a significant number of citizens are sympathetic to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. They are perceived as a threat to state security. The majority of Myanmar's population consists of ethnic Burmese (68%), and the dominant religion is Buddhism, which 89% of the population profess. Muslims (4%), Christians (4%) and adherents of other religions are considered second-class people, they are infringed in rights. Buddhist monk Asin Virata, leader of the anti-Islamic Movement 969, openly calls for the killing of Muslims.
The conflict between the Buddhists and the Rohingi Muslims resembles a vicious circle. According to Burmese, Rohingya Muslims are Bengalis who moved to Rakhine State from the territory of the modern state of Bangladesh in the era of British colonialism. Now, the Rohingya Muslims make up 43% of the state's population (about 1 million people), while the Buddhists-Arakans (Mongoloids) - 52%. The central government fears that Rohingya people will proclaim an unrecognized state on the territory of the state. The authorities deliberately create unfavorable living conditions in Rakhine to force Muslims to leave for Bangladesh or other Muslim countries. The state receives less funding from Rakhine State. This is the most economically backward region in Myanmar, and about 78% of the local population live below the poverty line. Rohingya do not have passports, they are not registered as citizens in government databases, they do not have the right for higher education, prestigious work, and they are not called into the army. Rohingya people argue that Rakhine State is their land. They consider themselves descendants of the Arabs who arrived there in the 16th century, and require the government to issue passports and observe their rights.
It may appear that with the help of the conflict in Rakhine State, the current authorities are trying to distract the society from the difficult economic situation and unpopular steps in the sphere of the country's reform. However, the concerns of the Myanmar authorities regarding separatism in Rakhine State are not groundless. Separatist sentiments among local Muslims were born in the colonial period. After the withdrawal of Pakistan from British India in 1947, Rohingya Muslim organization "Arakan Muslim League" invited the Pakistani Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah to join Rakhine State to his state. Then it was quite possible, because the border Bangladesh was part of Pakistan until 1971 and it was possible to transfer the occupation troops from there.
Local Arakans-Buddhists, who did not want to become a minority in a large Muslim state, resisted. In response, Rohingya declared jihad to them. After the independence of Myanmar in 1948 (at that time it was called Burma), a martial law was declared in the state of Rakhine and Buddhists staged repression against Muslim separatists, who went to the forests on the border with Bangladesh. Subsequently, Rohingya Muslims have established relations with Islamic extremists from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Malaysia.
The current ethnic cleansing in the state of Rakhine is just a top of the iceberg compared to the operation of the Burmese military "Dragon King," carried out in 1978. Then 250 thousand Muslim Rohingya fled in Bangladesh. This year massacre of Rohingya Muslims is another round of ethno-political conflict that has lasted since the 1940s. Today, the most radical stronghold of Rohingya Muslims is the terrorist organization Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which is based in the forests of Rakhine State. Terrorists arrange punitive actions against militants-Buddhists, they practice kidnapping. The aim of the terrorists is to establish an independent Islamist state on the territory of Rakhine State and to achieve its recognition by the authorities of Myanmar. In response to the terrorist activities of Rohingya Muslims, in 2012-2016, Burmese security forces staged ethnic cleansing of civilians in the state of Rakhine. In 2012, about 120 thousand people fled to Bangladesh.
The separation of Rakhine State from Myanmar is not beneficial to the current government from an economic point of view. Speaking about the state of Rakhine, an oil and gas pipeline runs from Kyaukphyu port to the Chinese province of Yunnan across the whole territory of Myanmar. These pipelines were constructed by the Chinese oil company CNPC and designed for transportation of oil from Saudi Arabia and natural gas from Qatar, which are delivered to the port of Kyaukphyu in tankers. In exchange for the implementation of these projects, China promised to give the government of Myanmar $ 53 billion in royalties for 30 years. Also, China is considering the construction of a railway from the shores of the Bay of Bengal in the state of Rakhine to its borders. This will reduce the route and time of delivery of goods from China to South Asia, Africa, and Europe by sea. The need to use the Straits of Malacca for the transport of goods from China will disappear. The central government of Myanmar does not want to lose such a large sum and is ready to sink the blood of Rohingya Muslims for the sake of eradicating separatism in the state of Rakhine.
The actions of the Myanmar authorities met a negative reaction in the Muslim world. Turkish President Recep Erdogan accused them of "genocide of Muslims". The Chechens staged protests near the embassy of Myanmar in Moscow and demanded that the Russian Federation render assistance to the Rohingya Muslims. Saudi Arabia's mission to the UN also condemned acts of violence by the government. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein demanded that the local authorities stop the violence.
It will not be easy to achieve the introduction of new international sanctions against Myanmar. Permanent member of the UN Security Council China can prevent this as it has economic interests in this country. The deterioration of relations with Myanmar is not beneficial to the US because the Democrats, which Washington has supported for decades, are formally in power. From the late 80's to 2016's, US trade, economic, and political sanctions against the military regime in Myanmar operated. In 2014, the US Congress adopted the resolution H.Res. 418, which called on the US government and the international community to exert pressure on Myanmar in response to the violence of the military against the Rohingya Muslims.
A spare airfield for the "Islamic state"
The continuing repression of the Rohingya Muslims will contribute to their radicalization. There is a favorable ground for the emergence of terrorist organizations of Islamic extremists in the unstable state of Rakhine, which has a strategically important geographic location. Rohingya people profess Islam of the Sunni type, which is also adhered by the terrorist organizations "Islamic State", "Al-Qaeda" and "Abu Sayyaf." International terrorists can simply buy the impoverished low-literate population of the state and create their own cells in Rakhine State, rule this region according to Sharia law, as it happens with ISIS on the territory of Syria and Iraq. Such a prospect might be interesting for "Islamic State" terrorist organization.
The conflict in the state of Rakhine can continue forever. Rohingya Muslims have nowhere to go. Refugees from the state of Rakhine are not welcomed in Bangladesh, as well as in Malaysia and Indonesia, where they are trying to get on rafts and flimsy boats. Saudi Arabia has developed a plan to resettle Muslims from Myanmar. To date, it has been possible to resettle about 400 thousand Rohingya Muslim. The process is too slow and can drag on for several years. "Democratic" authorities of Myanmar should try to change the policy and move from terror to integration of unruly Muslims in their society. This is necessary for the sake of preserving the territorial integrity of the country and preventing the emergence of cells of the "Islamic State" on the territory of Rakhine State. It makes sense to give Muslims equal rights and increase funding of Rakhine.