Rohingya return uncertain as fresh conflicts erupt in Rakhine
Published : Tuesday, 21 November, 2023 at 12:00 AM Count : 520
Rakhine's stability has broken, tension rising, as an informal ceasefire between Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA), agreed in November 2022, has been breached. AA has started operation against the military throughout the Rakhine, as part of 'Operation 1027', launched primarily on northern Shan and Kachin States.
Three Brotherhood Alliance (3BTA)- The Arakan Army (AA), the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) initiated "Operation 1027" since October 27. According to 3BTA, the operation was motivated and dedicated to eradicate the oppressive military dictatorship, a shared aspiration of the entire Myanmar populace.
This is not only the first significant coordinated attack on the military since the coup, but also the first time that several anti-Myanmar junta factions have come together to fight outside of their designated combat zones. The Brotherhood Alliance is coordinating operations with a number of People's Defense Forces, including the Bamar People Liberation Army, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, the Kachin Independence Army, and others. As part of Operation 1027, other opposition organizations have increased their attacks on regime targets in other parts of Myanmar.
After a three week's fight, over 168 military bases have been seized by the EAOs. The junta has lost control of 5 towns in northern Shan State - Chin Shwe Haw, Phaungsai, Monekoe, Namkham, Hseni and Kunlong - 2 in Sagaing Region - Kawling and Kamphat - and Rih Kaw Dar in Chin State. While, in Rakhine, 40 Junta outposts have been reportedly seized by the AA so far.
The operation has now expanded into six major fronts across the country- Shan front, Mandalay front, Sagaing front, China-Myanmar border front, India-Myanmar border front and Rakhine front/Bangladesh-Myanmar border front. Meanwhile, the counteroffensive vowed by junta boss Min Aung Hlaing early this month has failed to materialize as his regime continues to lose one town after another to resistance forces.
Undoubtedly, "Operation 1027" has rekindled the revolution. Unfortunately, the peace in Rakhine has been broken, which means there is a chance that the present plans for the repatriation of Rohingya, which was slated for December of this year, will be delayed. Because they are the most persecuted group in the world, the Rohingyas' problems and sufferings are probably going to get worse.
Myanmar's history has been marked by coups, military rule, ethnic wars, etc. Myanmar has never experienced a fully democratic state free from military intrusion. Consequently, the struggle for democracy and the persecution of the Rohingya people have a long history.
Although, Myanmar government considers the Rohingya as British colonial and postcolonial migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, "A Comparative Vocabulary of Some of the Languages Spoken in the Burma Empire" by Francis Buchanan (1799), which was found and republished by Michael Charney in the 'SOAS Bulletin of Burma Research' in 2003, says, among the native groups of Arakan, there are the "Mohammedans, who have long settled in Arakan, and who call themselves Rooinga, or natives of Arakan. The Classical Journal of 1811 identified "Rooinga" as one of the languages spoken in the "Burmah Empire". In 1815, Johann Severin Vater listed "Ruinga" as an ethnic group with a distinct language in a compendium of languages published in German.
Blatantly ignoring the history, the Rohingyas are still regarded as illegal immigrants and non-citizens by Myanmar. Persecution of the Rohingyas thus crossed beyond any limit. Violent, large-scale crackdowns targeted toward the Rohingya - like Operation King Dragon in 1978 and Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation in 1991 - forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee Burma into Bangladesh.
The most current and possibly most virulent, wave of anti-Rohingya persecution began in August 2017 when the military of Myanmar launched merciless onslaught against the Rohingya communities. The head of the UN agency for human rights later referred to the military's conduct as "acts of horrific barbarity," potential "acts of genocide," and "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing". The persecution forced nearly a million Rohingya to flee to neighboring country, Bangladesh, while thousands to India, Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia.
In the six years since the most recent exodus, not a single Rohingya has been allowed to return. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, after numerous failed attempts, Bangladesh and Myanmar have announced a pilot program for the repatriation. It was projected that approximately one thousand Rohingyas would be returning home in December of this year. But ow uncertain, due the fresh clashes,
As a citizen of Myanmar, Rohingyas are also part of any historical turnover of the country. With only about a thousand Rohingya being repatriated as part of this experimental program, new conflicts in Rakhine shouldn't interfere with the repatriation.
A number of noteworthy worldwide events over the last two years, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, Israel-Hamas conflict, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the Taliban's reconquest of Afghanistan, have drawn attention away from the Rohingyas. Participants in the repatriation process are unable to take any chances that might cause the process to drag on. Because this will not only destroy hope of the Rohingyas, but also fell the region into even more deeply crisis-ridden.
Myanmar's battle for democracy can march on and so does the returning of Rohingyas.
The writer is an Associate Professor & security affairs analyst