|Villagers cut bamboos from the high mountains and brining to villagers to sell in Yaw Chaung river in Ponnaygun township in 2016|
Sittway. May 21, 2020.
Why so many conflicts are in Rakhine State, mainly Muslim and Rakhine communal violence and Arakan Army and Myanmar army fighting?
To simplify the answer, because it is central government’s natural resources exploitation and political control.
Billions of dollars annual revenues from the natural gas sold to China and the fees of lease of lands and oil tanker port in Kyaukphyu and taxes from Kaladan and Sitwtay seaport projects of India are visible exploitations, little or no benefit distribution to the Rakhine people for almost two decades.
To shift attention from the local people boycotting against the twin pipelines projects between Rakhine and Yunnan, certain quarter of hidden hands from higher authority incited Buddhist and Muslim communal violence in 2012 and 2014.
All of the above mentioning points and additional historical grievance, marginalization, discrimination, poverty, social inequality, and centralization are the main factors young Arakanese are gravitated towards armed struggle for greater autonomy.
Government and army responses are harsh.
Government and army responses are harsh.
An analyst in Sittway attempts to understands comprehensively what else Myanmar Tatmadaw is conducting in Rakhine State beside the military operations. In his observation, the army is systematic, deliberate, and coordinately destroying Rakhine community as innovative destruction military pattern.
He, remains anonymous, coins it Civil Structure Destruction Pattern (CSDP). The aim of the CSDP is to ruin and devastate the entire community in order of deterring the people supporting Arakan Army.
“It is more than psychological warfare. It is total destruction act of the army,” he said.
Civil structure he describes is Rakhine society in morality is attachment, proud, connectedness, share and care of each other wellbeing and prosperity, strong faith in Buddhism, ethical, and kin in justice.
In socio-economics, he defies the community relays on local food productions of rice, vegetables, marine products and inter villages trading and exchanges of goods. The basic housing structures of villagers are mostly self style architects with bamboos, woods, and leaves of water palms. Some houses are concrete structures.
People are very poor and almost no jobs but earning minimal incomes from locally trading and manual laboring, not much dependence on import and export goods.
Majority of transportations are still relaying on waterways even though there were some highways built in 2000s, but the community access to roads is probably about 30 percent.
Energy and cooking foods are used for woods. Only townships get limited and on-and-off electricity supplied from central Myanmar.
Culture is the community participatory events such as weddings, religions, funerals, festivals, and social activities, and sharing news and interaction with burdens and hardships of individuals.
For communication and media access, there are lesser TV, newspapers, magazines, and radios but only mobile internet the community uses the most.
“Rakkhine people are always politically active, and it is in their Gen,” the analyst said.
The pattern the analyst terms is ruin, removed, permanent injury, and destroying existing structures in the society including economic, culture, and religion.
“The army blocks waterways, sets up restriction checkpoints on the roads, bars inter village and township trading, sets fire the villages, arrests, bombs, shells, shoots, loots property and livestock, and forces to displace massive populations, then the basic structure of civil society is totally destroyed physically. People get all kinds of hardships and impossible to survive in terms of forced to be unsurvival of weakest,” he said.
Cultural events with large crowd participations such as canoe rowing competitions, oily pillar ascending, two-side-tackle-string pulling competition, and wrestling, water festival, Buddhist pagoda annual festivals, village and township level football matches are completely halted either the reason of restriction or insecurity.
Religion ceremonies such as Waso full moon--day-Buddhist monks quarantine in the temple for raining season, and Wa Kyaut--full moon day of ending monsoon feasting, Tinsong Pon--full moon day of eve of winter, and Visan Kha day--full moon day of beginning of ending summer are completely stop due to the war and insecurity.
Moreover, military personals stationed at the Buddhist temples and historic pagodas and the schools hamper pursuit of educations and worshipping.
Even worse, the army shelled the pagodas and Buddha statutes and schools. A number of pagodas and Buddha statutes were destroyed and some worshipping temples were burned down. Dozens of school children were killed and injured and some school were burnt down.
One of the environment activists wrote many forests were deforested by the army setting fire, shelling, and jet fighters bombing.
Prosecuting civilians with terrorist laws uses as legal toll to repress the people while political harassing politicians, activists, and journalists are common.
Aim and Objective
Government Spokesperson U Zaw Htay told the press conference in the earlier months of 2019 the entire society of Rakhine would be ruined, devastated, and remained underdeveloped if Rakhine people kept supporting Arakan Army.
It explains exactly the aim and objective of government and Tatmdaw what present and future situations of Rakhine people would be under the systematic oppression.
The results are fatality. Hundreds of community members are killed, injured, disappeared, and people are poorer, insecurity, fear, uncertainty, malnutrition, starvation, uneducated, lower child mortality rate, unhealthy, and waiting to die.
In return, the state hopes the poor and hungry people cannot support AA so that the army will bring a complete end of war and victory of government can be declared.
It works in 1970s when the government launched military operations against communist organizations in the north and in the west. Rakhine people were casted the devastated removal of villages and forced relocations during the ‘Four-Cuts’ campaigns.
But time is different now and then.
Reactions and anger of the local people is totally different between cracking down on the Communists and fighting against Arakan Army.
Communist organizations in Rakhine were ideology base of ‘haves and have nots.’ Arakan Army is nationalism based on identity, pride, justice, and self-determination.
Glancing of Military Operations
Tatmadaw has been fighting against Arakan Amry for over one years. They resort all kinds of forces including jet fighters, helicopter gunships, navy, artillery, and ground troops. Luckily, they don’t have nuclear warheads and biological weapons to use.
Until now, the army cannot produce a single significant victory to the public and government.
On the other hands, AA has proved by killing large number of government troops, seizer of police stations, artillery bases, a military school, and small military outposts, and even extending its troop to the south.
In 2017 and aftermath of military operations against Rohingya, soldiers from Light Infantry Division (LID) 22, 33, and 55 were looking for Arakan Army in Ram Chaung area, southeast of Mrauk U, but met with severe causalities. Local people reported at least 200 troops were killed and hundreds injured. They did not expect the skills of AA fighters and outnumbers in the jungle they would encounter.
The LIB commanders reported to their headquarters the fetal loss of their troops in Ram Chaung. The higher brasses in Naypaytaw were angry and ordered all troops to remain in Rakhine.
Then the brasses sent more reinforcement troops and artilleries and fought AA in O’ Rama and Lo’ Rama mountain ranges in northwest of Ponnaygun in summer of 2018. Again, the results were unprecedented, at least 350 government soldiers were killed and many injured.
In November and December, the army mobilized most troops from the bases from the south to north with additional forces from Mandalay and Bago divisions to Paletwa, Kyauktaw, and Mrauk U townships and attacked AA in Paletwa township in Chin State. The army started using helicopter gunships to back up their troops last February. But and again the troops were pushed back and even defeated in the territories of Arakan Army control.
On the other hands, AA switched strategy of counter attack in Buthedaung township and opened a new front by attacking several police outposts in January 2019.
Shortly after it, Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint allowed the army to use jet fighters, helicopters, and MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System).
AA fighters were regrouped near riverine area between Kyauktaw and Ponnaygun townships known as Baddaw battle. Then the army with 500 troops emerged and attacked AA positions near the Buddaw village. The fight last 25 days and army used jet fighters to rescue and clear the way out of its troops encircled by 1,000 AA fighters. But Myanmar army paid heavy price for the withdraw.
As soon as the Buddaw battle was ended, AA troops were expending to Minbya, Maybon, and Rathedaung townships.
The military planners in Nayparytaw were forced to react with widening more military offensive operations in the mid regions and prepared defensive positions near Ann, Tougup, and Kyaukphyu townships. More troops based in Karen, Mon, Shan, Irrawaddy divisions were brought to the Arakan frontlines in last May.
Myanmar army even brought hundreds of Karen militia, former prisoners of army and police, and military retirees to the Arakan war zones.
AA mobilized its reserve troops to Ann, Thandwe, Gwa, Kyaukphyu, and Tougup townships recently. Sporadic clashed and remote mines attacks occurred in Ann, Toungup, and Kyaukphyu townships.
There is no security force left and even firefighters are involved in fighting against Arakan Army.
The war is eventually spreading to the whole Arakan State.
Change of Strategy in Naypaytaw
The generals in Naypaytaw learned lessons they would not be able to defeat Arakan Army as they had thought it was easy. They see the war will prolong and require heavy investment. So, they need to contain the military offensive operations but open a new strategy that is to target civilians.
Therefore, scorching earth tactics are carried out in the rural areas. It does not stop there but the generals apply CSDP to destroy villages and towns and lend a hand from the government.
The generals have approached the elected government to support the army for finance, diplomatic channels, legal mechanism, cutting international aid to IDPs, blocking internets, involving every ministry, state government, and individual officialdoms.
First, the government allows the jet fighters and helicopters to use. Second, it bans internet. Third, it allows courts to sue suspects with terrorist laws. Fourth, it is arresting families of AA leaders in overseas. Fifth, they are creaking down on financial supports from individual working people abroad and businesses in the country. Sixth, the government declares AA as terrorist organization.
“I don’t see any ministry that does not involve in the army operations,” the analyst said.
After the army gets full support from the government, it focuses on the civilians and civil structure to destroy.
“Counter terrorist laws become a repression toll over the civilians in Rakhine that I have not seen it in any region and state,” woman lawyer Daw Aye Nu Sein wrote on social media.
Army and government ban international and national media to cover the conflicts in Rakhine State but open only state’s owned media for their own use.
At the same time, the state harasses and intimidates journalists, lawmakers, political party, and activists who speak up and provide facts and ground information of the conflicts.
When internet is blackout and citizens cannot report the true facts, ICRC convey, WHO vehicle, and WFP convey were attacked but no one claimed for responsible. The local people say it is the dirty game of the army and attempting to portray AA as international terrorist organization and inflicting false stories to the international community and wish to be sided.
International Community and Media Reactions
International media has started giving attention and written news and stories the conflicts since March 2020. British becomes strong vocal cretinism. United Nations is forced to issue a number of statements. UN rights experts called for investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
INGOs and NGOs issued statements and called to allow humanitarian assistances, lift internet ban, and nationwide ceasefire.
UN Security Council held a close door-online meeting recently and discussed the increase of civilian casualties and IDPs to tens of thousands of people. British and EU nations called for a nationwide ceasefire.
Future Policy Outlook
Both the government and army will keep fighting against AA while targeting civilians. Half or entire civil structures will be destroyed. IDPs will be increased to a half millions. More civilians, expected to 3,000, will be killed and injured in next a couple of years. Thousands of civilians will be arrested and tortured.
Politicians, lawmakers, and political parties are also targeted.
The 2020 election and newly elected government will not make any different but carrying on the same tasks of repressing the Rakhine people as well as all ethnic people as the 2008 constitution and policy outlined for a ‘unitary state’ instead of federation as most Burman leaders believe it is great opportunity and legitimate task to enforce the ethnic people by the elected government as historical calls for building ‘the 4thnation building process’ in terms of all ethnic minority community should be directed to under one culture of Burman and under Burmanization strategy.
The world leaders made mistake to cautiously welcome the new government after 2015 election that changing from military to civilian rule. It is even leading to a failed state. The world grabbed quick business opportunity and supported the elected government and forgot the root cause of the conflict Myanmar has gradually been growing for 70 years wherein the central government marginalizes ethnic right of self determination as the basic foundation and formation of the country.
By keeping unpressured, military fight will be spreading to the north and south in next a few years in terms of the country is steadily entering into full civil wars due to the attitude of Burmese leaders, lack of will of sharing power and resources but exploitation, firm constitutional framework and administration and legislation structures and contexts, and anger of the ethnic people for sustain poverty and underdeveloped.
CSDP is more harm than ‘scorched earth’ campaign. The scorched earth campaign is to tackle down AA members and its supporters by destroying some villages that are assumed supporting and harboring AA.
CSDP is total destruction of a targeted ethnic community that constitutes war crimes, crime against humanity, genocide, and ethnic cleansing.
International community, mainly United Nations, had failed to prevent genocide over Rohingya people in Rakhine State by early warning and strong pressuring on Myanmar government.
Again, it is the pattern and the repeated strategy of the government and army with modest innovation to destroy the civil structures on the Rakhine ethnic. It requires early waning, international monitoring, deployment, and strong pressure. Otherwise, it will lead to another phase of genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.
If and again the world body and international community have not yet give enough pressure on Myanmar government but keep supporting and cooperating with it, the Rakhine community in the end will be found total ruin.
Hope and wish does not give any good return but regret. Rebuilding the community takes decades, expensive, a lot of works and investments, and painful.
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