Evergreen grasslands of Rakhine State

  •  Maung Maung Kyaw
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Mrauk U Township, Rakhine State.  Photo: AFP

On our planet, cultural diversity is much more common in this century; however, due to extreme greed and negative outlook of people in some areas, conflicts have flared up. The divergence has spread into many forms of war, terrorism, and human rights abuses, turning the atmosphere into ugly images.
In Rakhine State, Rakhine nationals are staying side by side with Mro, Thet, Khami, Bamar, Dainet, Chin, Kaman and Marma Gyi ethnic nationalities, including people of other faiths. Last year, the Maungtaw area became shattered and the diverse culture collapsed. Ugly images have popped up.
With the long background and complex history of Rakhine State, blatant breach of national security and daring terrorist attack on sovereignty have occurred over the years in the area. However, only fake allegations of human rights abuses and lopsided pressure over the exodus surfaced.
When people of other religious faiths made mass departure from Rakhine State, people across the globe took interest in the matter and put pressure without solid reasons. In addressing the complicated problems, there is a need of persons with wisdom who have knowledge on the root cause of the conflicts.

Root cause of conflict
The root cause started to conceive many decades back. The ground reality is that the Rakhine ethnic nationals have been residing peacefully in Rakhine State in the western part of Myanmar since many decades, and they are the nationals of the Union of Myanmar.
The core cause and the problem started after 1824 when British colonized Myanmar at the end of the Anglo-Myanmar War. The Rakhine area was subjugated along with East Bengal area under the British Administration.
When the Suez Canal was commissioned in 1869, the global rice trade was booming, and the colonialists eyed the Rakhine area for rice cultivation. Agricultural workers from Bengal area were called into Rakhine area to grow paddy. Beginning from that particular period, workers from that area moved into Rakhine State, from time to time until recent years.
The root cause of the problem was the import of alien workers into Rakhine area by the colonialists for their own interests. With the complex and intricate migrant labors for many decades, the security of Rakhine State and the survival of Rakhine nationals have been threatened and have encountered enormous challenges, which need sustainable solution.
At the end of Second World War in 1942, the British retreated from Myanmar. It was an uncertain time and a fluid political situation when resistance against the Fascists was needed. With that backdrop and setting, the people in that area were equipped with arms as needed for that moment, which later turned out as armed conflicts in Rakhine State.
Before and after independence of Myanmar, illegal migration surged, and later, the sovereignty of the nation has been attacked. This is a summary of the root cause of the recent conflicts and problems in Maungtaw area in Rakhine State.

Geography and extreme activities
The Rakhine State and Rakhine nationals have a long history, and their chronicle should be carefully studied in detail. Currently, in the northern tips of Rakhine State, only five percent of Rakhine nationals exist. All good things and ground realities of the past about Rakhine have faded away.
In the north of Rakhine State, the nation of Bangladesh nation is situated, with a population of 170 million. The three rivers, namely, Mayu, Kaladan and Lay Myo are flowing in that area, creating a delta region with fertile land for good cultivation and fine fishery breeding grounds.
The area is connected with Chin State, Magway, Bago and Ayeyawady regions, and moreover, has a long coastal line with the Bay of Bengal. Such connectivity has brought a good legacy of attractive businesses, such as fisheries, off-shore oil and gas exploration, animal breeding, and ancient artifacts for the tourism industry. However, the golden opportunities could not be reaped due to various challenges and difficulties cropping up from geographical condition.
The successive governments have had to deal with immigration matters, in addition to illegal migrants, terrorist attacks, and blatant provocations to the country’s sovereignty. With changing of times and political situation, the Maungtaw area in Rakhine State experienced the fading away of aboveground antagonism, which transformed into underground movements.
At a time when extremists are terrorizing the world, the underground elements in Rakhine State received illegal foreign aid and underwent secret terrorist training courses abroad. They sneaked back into Maungtaw area and multiplied the courses on terror to others and started committing attacks.
It is recorded that Maungtaw area saw 3 conflicts from 1930 to 1942, 4 conflicts in 1988, 18 conflicts based on racial and religious matters from 2012 to 2014, and many terrorist attacks in 2016 and 2017. The preplanned sinister terror attacks were actually plots carried out in Maungtaw area, with an intention to draw the attention of the world to undermine Myanmar’s alleged human rights abuses as referred to the United Nations for severe action to be taken. At the moment, Rakhine State is in a stable condition to a certain extent, but the Maungtaw area needs high security alert.
During the visit to Singapore in August 2018, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi explained the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, due to the challenges of terrorist attacks, that needed a proper sustainable solution to avoid violence between the two communities, which could possibly become a threat to the region.

Task of the government
In the past, conflicts had occurred only among local people in Maungtaw area, but the recent severe conflicts involved the aid and abetment of foreign extremists using local people, resulting in a security breach of the nation as well as its sovereignty being provoked.

Formation of commissions
To probe into the background situations that led to violent attacks that occurred on 9 October and 12-13 of November 2016 in Maungtaw, Rakhine State, and the truth about the incidents, and to investigate whether existing laws, rules and regulations were observed in taking measures to avoid similar incidents in the future before making recommendations, the Investigation Committee was formed on 1 December 2016 and headed by Vice President U Myint Swe.
The Investigation Committee submitted 48 point-recommendations, while the Advisory Commission headed by Dr. Kofi Annan submitted 88 point-recommendation on 24 August 2017.
The government is implementing the recommendations based on the ground reality for the safety and development of the areas.
Currently, it could be said that the Rakhine State is in stable and peaceful condition. For resettlement and rehabilitation, the Myanmar government has signed agreements with the UNDP and the UNHCR, in line with the recommendations.

Ending the cycle of misery
Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a memorandum of understanding on the return of people who fled from the Rakhine State. UN officials were allowed access to 23 villages, and 5 more villages have been designated as repatriation transit camps.
Moreover, the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD) has been formed. The duties of UEHRD are to carry out effective provision of humanitarian aid, to coordinate the resettlement and rehabilitation efforts and to carry out regional development and work towards durable peace.
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has lauded the recommendations of the Advisory Commission headed by Dr. Kofi Annan.
Despite all positive endeavors, some elements have sinister intention to grab Rakhine State through violence acts.

Implementation to be carried out
For harmony and peaceful coexistence between the two communities in Rakhine State, the recommendations of Dr. Kofi Annan are sure to be implemented. In this regard, it is believed that the ASEAN countries and friendly nations would surely lend their hands in the endeavors of Myanmar.
The most vital ingredient is the cooperation on the part of Bangladesh.
The author of the article believes that the government could lay down a solid foundation for peace and stability. The whole landscape of Rakhine State, the national brethrens of the land, and other communities residing there are the most valuable natural beauties of the country. Despite the tough and rough weather of challenges on the road ahead, we will be able to step on the journey into happiness in the right direction in the evergreen grasslands of Rakhine State.

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