Last year, 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh from Myanmar after being targeted by the Myanmar military as what the UN reports as Genocide. The Rohingya are a stateless minority group, who as a result are vulnerable and often excluded. The attacks left hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees stranded in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar with no immediate choice on where to go and unwilling to return back to the country where they were violently victimised.
International actors are now looking for ways to ease one of the world’s largest refugee crisis with the hope of returning the Rohingya to Myanmar. However, there are some difficulties that peacemakers face before Myanmar and the Rohingya see an end to the violence:
Settling the Rohingya back into a safe environment - The Rohingya refugees currently cannot return safely with violence ongoing and next to no change in the mindset of the military in regards to their brutalities. The Myanmar government are still denying that they wrongly attacked citizens, claiming that they only targeted rebel groups. However, many innocent civilians were brutally attacked, including women and young children who were sexually assaulted. The Rohingya cannot safely settle back in, when their previous attacks are not recognised and brutalities continuing. Amnesty have said that the remaining Rohingya continue to me persecuted by the Myanmar military. Amnesty believe that the military is committing ‘crimes against humanity’with the remaining Rohingya, as they army continues to cut the minority group from their rice fields, rob them of their livestock and destroy their local markets.
Easing economic tensions - Building a secure economy and sustainable livelihood for all residents of Myanmar is essential in order to avoid future misconducts and prevent reasons for armed conflict. Human Rights Watch said that land confiscations and forced evictions that took place over recent years was a major part of the military rule and internal armed conflict. Without farming, and left with no source of income to supply themselves, many Rohingya would be left to starve. Human Rights Watch go on to say that much of this confiscation was illegal, with acres in their millions being illegally seized by the military. Beyond military takeovers, more than a quarter of the forests have been lost since 1990 in which International Alert stated that by some estimates was the third-highest rate of deforestation in the world. An Estimated 80% of Myanmar's population relies on forest for their livelihood, meaning such conditions can lead to major humanitarian famines and general deterioration of the societies wellbeing.
Demilitarisation - In the past, ceasefires have struggled to uphold in Myanmar with not all armed groups agreeing to the conditions. Saferworld in their latest report on Myanmar comment on the fact that the Myanmar state has never had control of the whole country despite military efforts, causing a complicated security environment. The report stresses that inclusivity is crucial for peace to be successfully, and that an equal voice for all parties must be provided in order for there to be sound communication and understanding throughout the country. This includes a sound understanding on who is in control of arms within the country.
- Holding those accountable for Human Rights violations and acts of genocide - To avoid future attacks and for the Rohingya to feel supported, the Myanmar military need to be held accountable for their brutalities. But doing this will be a challenge, acts of genocide are difficult to define and distinguish from general conflict, particularly when the Myanmar military are rejecting the UN reports and deny investigators access to government sites. But the UN upholds the view that Myanmar military leaders must face genocidal charges and crimes against humanity which include murder, rape, torture and persecution.
Inclusive peace and security - For there to be sustainable peace, any future peace deals need to be consented by every resident, including small communities and minor ethnic groups. Some ethnic groups have come forward to say that rarely do they have government representatives travelling to their parts of the country to discover what issues smaller groups and communities face. This exclusion will not uphold a peaceful environment and could be counteractive. A common ground is essential in going forward, currently there are far too many voices unaccounted for within the country, and many acting out of their own accord, rather than working together for peace and security.
These are just a few of the challenges Myanmar face in brief and certainly issues that need to be addressed to ensure a sound peace deal. Although the road to peace will be a difficult one, with the guide of international actors it is possible that the people of Myanmar, including returning Rohingya can have stability and security in the future.
How can you help?
British Red Cross are collecting donations to help towards shelter and healthcare for those who have fled Myanmar. Details here: https://www.redcross.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/international/myanmar
Also, pop to your local British Red Cross charity shop to see if there is anything you want to buy, all donations will go towards similar causes.
Check out our article on simple ways you can help international crisis locally!