Ethnic groups out of Myanmar peace process

Rohingyas living in refugee camps in Bangladesh said that Rakhine State of Myanmar has become more vulnerable for Rohingyas in the last three years due to some steps taken by the Myanmar government.

The steps of Myanmar government also block the refugee repatriation which also has failed twice since 2017, they alleged.

Recently, Myanmar’s military accepted the concept of federalism last week after decades of resistance to the idea, signing an agreement on Friday, the final day of government-sponsored peace talks to set the stage for building a federal democratic union after 2020.

The shift reverses 70 years of military rejection of a federal union for the complex multi-ethnic nation, but the latest agreement was thin on any achievements in trouble prone Rakhine state along with the Bangladesh border as no major ethnic armed groups of the state have been involved in the process.

The Myanmar government, which declared the Arakan Army (AA) of Buddhist Rakhine community the strong armed group of the region a terrorist organization earlier this year, did not invite them to the conference. Seven other ethnic armies that have not signed the National Ceasefire Agreement NCA declined invitations as a show of solidarity with the AA.

 Recently, there has been an increase in clashes between security forces and these groups, especially the Arakan Army. The innocent Rohingyas living there in the conflict between the two sides are living in a  hostage-like situation.

 All of  the provinces in Myanmar where armed rebel groups are fighting for their rights, the situation in Rakhine State is the most contentious at the moment, refugees and other sources in border areas informed.   

 Rohingyas, living in world largest refugee camps in Coxs Bazar, southern district of Bangladesh thought the federalism process in Myanmar is causing the crisis to deepen as the Rohingya community is not involved in the process.

 Mohammad Ismail, a resident in Balukhali Refugee camp-11, in Coxs Bazar, told Bangladesh Post, though a peace talk is ongoing in Myanmar, the situation is becoming worse day by day due to conflict between AA and government forces.

 “For a long time, there has been talk of federalism, but after the 2017 crisis, the Myanmar government has insisted on implementing this process, but the Rohingyas with whom the crisis of 2017 began were not included,  he said, “At the same time other communities of the state from different religious and ethnic entitles ate also excluded from the process”.

 Clashes between security forces and armed rebels have led to a devastating humanitarian crisis; with more than a million Rohingya Muslims fleeing the Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017, and taking refuge in Bangladesh. The humanitarian crisis, the fastest in its history, has put the Myanmar government and military under increasing international pressure.

 Although the Rohingyas have been vocal about their rights for a long time, they have not been able to establish a strong position there due to lack of organizational base.  

 Since 2012, the Myanmar army has carried out several crackdowns on Rohingays in Rakhine in the wake of the activities of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army  ARSA an armed group of the Rohingya Muslim community. Although no activity of this organization has been observed there at present, the Arkan Army of the Buddhist Rakhine community is very much active in the areas, turning them like warfields.

   Ko Ko Lin, an observer of the situation in Myanmar told this correspondent, “The attitude of Myanmar government to Rakhine state does not reflect the expectations of the international community on Rohingya were not given importance."

 "The fact that some large organizations have not joined the talks with the government has raised questions about the process of federalism. Even if the government manages to complete the process on its own, it will tell the international community that democratization has taken place there, he added.

 "The Rohingya issue could then be plunged into a deeper darkness, he said, adding that the international community should pay more attention and put pressure on the issue."

 Following the conflict between AA and security forces, around 200 thousand people, mostly Rohingyas, are internally displaced in Rakhine state. Many of them are still trying to enter Bangladesh, but authorities are not allowing them.