Rakhine State Attacks Cause for Deep Concern in Myanmar

Refugees International (RI) is deeply concerned about the deaths reported in recent attacks on border guard stations and in subsequent security searches in Maungdaw district in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. While the origins of the attacks remain unclear, the dangers of speculation in an already tense atmosphere between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims risk sparking further violence.

RI calls for an independent investigation into the killings of both police and Rohingya civilians and for accountability for those found responsible. Myanmar authorities, community leaders, and international actors should seek to encourage calm and counter rumors until the facts behind the case can be established.

RI is also concerned that such violence could lead to further targeting of Rohingya Muslims and another mass exodus of Rohingya from the country, whether by sea or by new land routes. RI recently visited Rohingya in Malaysia and Thailand who had fled conditions in Myanmar during the May 2015 boat crisis, during which thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants and asylum seekers, including women and children, were trapped at sea and subjected to starvation, violence, and death. While increased monitoring and enforcement against human traffickers has prevented a similar mass exodus by sea this year, a new bout of violence in Rakhine State could precipitate further outpouring of Rohingya refugees.

The recent attacks take place against the backdrop of announcements by local authorities of plans to destroy hundreds of Rohingya homes and mosques and amid protests against the recently appointed Rakhine advisory commission headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Some 120,000 Rohingya remain displaced in camps across Rakhine State since violence broke out in 2012. Denied freedom of movement, they are forced to live in deplorable and inhumane conditions with limited access to humanitarian aid. Another million Rohingya in Myanmar remain stateless, unrecognized as citizens of Myanmar, and with severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of movement and religion and their access to work opportunities, education, and medical care.