Muslim vs. Buddhist

Myanmar’s young government must contain its growing ethnic divide.

By Animesh Roul

When Muslim militants attacked Myanmar’s border police in the western Rakhine State, the Buddhist-majority nation’s security forces struck back against the region’s vulnerable Muslim minority, who do not have citizen rights. The decade-old conflict between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya (Bengali) Muslims has drawn international attention. There is a severe risk in the embattled Southeast Asian country that the clashes could spark both a militant Islamic insurgency against the state and a genocide against the Muslim minority population. Myanmar must somehow halt both.

Armed attacks against border police continued on and off for days toward the end of last year. An October 9 attack killed nine border policemen, and as many attackers died in the ensuing gun battles. A similar ambush on October 11 left four more policemen dead. Violence again erupted on November 12-13, when armed militants launched a surprise attack on a military convoy during a clearance operation in Ma Yinn Taung village in Maungdaw town. Two security personnel, including a senior army officer, died in the ambush, while several suspected militants were killed. Subsequent government backed counter-insurgency operations in the area witnessed an escalation of armed clashes that claimed the lives of nearly 70 suspected Rohingya militants and 17 security force personnel.

Government forces have been accused of retaliating by razing entire villages of displaced Rohingya to the ground, with security forces allegedly killing over 500 people and …

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