Myanmar and the Arakan Army should hold talks on unity rather than boosting the Islamist dream

Myanmar and the Arakan Army should hold talks on unity rather than boosting the Islamist dream

Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Myanmar is beset by many ethnic conflicts and clearly, Rakhine is known internationally based on the pro-Muslim narrative in relation to Bengali Muslims. However, the situation is extremely complex because of ethnic, religious, and historical grievances.

In saying this, the one fear that Myanmar and the Arakanese fear is the demographic and migration reality of Bengali Muslims who threaten to overwhelm various mainly Buddhist ethnic groups. This fear is genuine because in such a short time the virtually non-Muslim region of the Chittagong Hill Tracts witnessed mass Bengali Muslim migration in Bangladesh. Equally, in Assam (India) the reality of mass Bengali migration is problematic for the indigenous. Therefore, it is in the interest of the central government of Myanmar and the Arakan Army to work together in order to overcome many protracted problems.

On top of this, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, is seeking to attract international investment into the troubled region of Rakhine. Hence, with China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea showing interest in expanding future investments in Rakhine – in accordance with the objectives of Aung San Suu Kyi; then this opportunity should be emboldened within a peace process between the central government and the Arakan Army.

If not, then with the international community in the West and Islamic world being pro-Bengali Muslim in Rakhine, then agitation is detrimental to the central government and Arakanese people. After all, when ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) Islamist terrorism began butchering different ethnic and religious groups, the international community was mainly silent and in denial.

In 2017, AFP (France 24) reported about the mainly Animist and Buddhist Mro fleeing ARSA terrorism, “San Tun said many of his Mro people — who number between 20,000 and 40,000 — had to leave everything behind as they sought sanctuary in government-held areas…”

Likewise, Aung San Suu Kyi stipulated, Those who have had to flee their homes are many. Not just Muslims and [Buddhist] Rakhines but also small minority groups such as Daing-net, Mro, Thet, Mramagyi and Hindus, of whose presence most of the world is totally unaware.”

Indeed, ARSA Islamists even killed and raped Bengali Hindus in Rakhine and this highlights the complete religious angle. The BBC reported on one brutal anti-Hindu massacre by ARSA Islamists by stating, In this brutal and senseless act, members of ARSA captured scores of Hindu women, men and children and terrorized them before slaughtering them outside their own villages.”

Equally important, all ethnic groups and Bengali Hindus fled to Myanmar government-held areas when ARSA Islamists began to butcher and persecute non-Muslims in Rakhine. The Arakan Army can’t ignore this reality. Hence, the government of Myanmar must tread carefully by not inflaming tensions with the mainly Buddhist Arakanese because this will only help the Arakan Army, ARSA, and nations that have shown ill will toward Myanmar.

Also, with several powerful economic powers in Northeast Asia and other nations like Singapore hoping to invest in Rakhine, then extra efforts toward peace between the government of Myanmar and the Arakan Army is needed. After all, major Western and Islamic nations have abandoned the central government, the Arakanese, and various non-Muslim indigenous ethnic groups in Rakhine. Therefore, it would be a tragedy if the central government and the Arakan Army could not solve differences because negative outside meddling seeks chaos in Rakhine. If this happens, then the mainly Buddhists of Rakhine will suffer in the long-term – just like what happened in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh.


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