June 13, 2012


Despite the proclamation of a state of emergency in the Rakhine State (old Arakan State) of Myanmar on the night of June 10,2012, and the patrolling of the streets of the capital Sittwe and other Townships by the security forces, the TheinSein Government has not yet been able to restore normalcy.

2. Incidents of sectarian violence between the Buddhists and the Bengali-speaking Rohingya Muslims continue to be reported. Though there are no reports of any new fatalities, incidents of arson with the Muslimsallegedly  setting fire to the houses of Buddhists are being reported. Muslims carrying small-arms have been patrolling the Muslim-inhabited areas of Townships to protect the Muslims from retaliatory attacks by the Buddhists. This reflects their lack of confidence in the ability of the security forces to protect them.

3.Representatives of the Rohingyas have accused the TheinSein Government of imposing a news black-out in the State in order to prevent news of the real state of affairs from reaching the international community.

4.Despite their continuing support to the TheinSein Government's policy of reforms, the US and the European Union countries are concerned over the inability of the security forces  to restore law and order.

5.At a time when the situation continues to cause concern, the decision of the United Nations to withdraw all its staff numbering over 40 from the Rakhine State has come in for criticism from Western human rights organisations.
6. The Human Rights Watch of the US has alleged that the situation in the State was tending to get out of control and called for the despatch of international human rights observers to the State.

7. To the disappointment of the Rohingyas, Aung San SuuKyi, who met the representatives of the agitated Muslim community in Yangon, has not chosen to visit the Rakhine State. Nor are there reports of her taking up vigorously with the authorities the measures required for putting an end to the sectarian violence.

8. She is going ahead with her European tour starting on June 14, covering Switzerland, Norway,the UK, Ireland and France. She seems confident of the stability and durability of the Government of TheinSein and reportedly does not anticipate any threat to it from hardline pro-Beijing elements in the Army during her absence from the country.

9. In the past, whenever she was released from house arrest, she had avoided going abroad due to fears that the Army, which was then in power, might not allow her to return  to the country.She does not appear to have any such fears this time.Since 1988, she went out of the country for the first time last month when she went to Bangkok.

10. She is not taking any of the senior leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) with her. They will stay behind in Myanmar during her absence. She is being accompanied to Europe only by two of the younger members of the NLD.

11. Western human rights organisations have been concerned over the continued refusal of the Bangladesh authorities toallow entry ofRohingya women and children fleeing from the violence in the Rakhine State. There are already about 300,000Rohingyas in camps in the Cox's Bazaar area of Bangladesh for many years posing security problems to the Bangladesh authorities. They apparently do not want to add to their number. ( 14-6-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: seventyone2@gmail.com . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )

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