(Opinion) Options of Bringing War to An End and Restoration of Peace and Prosperity in Rakhine State, Myanmar

Gas and oil rich Rakhine people risking their lives traveling with broken bridges and riding with old and uninspected ships
AN.Sittway. June 3, 2020
Monsoon season is approaching. Farmers in northern Arakan (Rakhine) State cannot go to farms and do their works properly because they are fear of get arrested or shot and killed by the Burmese security forces deploying near their villages. In addition, Myanmar army rejects three brotherhood statement, political and military alliance rebel forces in northern Shan State, that calls for bilateral ceasefire and dialogue. 

Fighting between Arakan Army and the government forces are seen as daily business and no sign of easing but prolonging.

But there are options to stop the war if all sides desire for it. 

Prolog War

Myanmar government Spokesperson U Zaw Htay said during the online press conference last week the military will fight harder against Arakan Army. The war will prolong; therefore, civilians and youths will suffer the most.

He responded with that remarks to the AA statement that called on all military personals and civil administrators get out of the Arakan State. 

International community, UN, US, and EU have consistently called on Myanmar government to resolve the violence peacefully. But it seems moving forward nowhere, and civilian casualties and internally displaced are increasing month after month.

Local human rights documentation institute, Arakan Information Center (AiC), released its monthly report on June 1 and listed civilian causalities in May. It said 7 villagers were killed, 23 injured, 53 arrested, 6 disappeared, and a woman was raped in Chin State. 

Despite Aung San Suu Kyi, once champion of democracy activist, led government has been in power for almost five years, violent armed solution—70 years of institutionalization of violent armed solution against the ethnic armed organizations that seek for freedom and greater autonomy—is still persisting and even greater use of forces are increasing while cracking down on Muslim rebel forces but targeted civilians and fighting against AA but killed more civilians in Rakhine State. 

Noting has been changed for 10 years after military junta step down and replaced with the elected government, except people are allowed to vote in regular elections, but ethnic elected leaders are not allowed to form their own state governments. 

Political space is gradually squeezing so far, and next election in Rakhine State is seemingly uncertain. 

Local people predict that combination of military and civilian rules may replace with the existing state government.

If it happens, democracy transition in Myanmar will become meaningless, but armed struggles will dominate. 

Riding Broken Military Chaise

Once General Tun Myat Naing of Arakan Army told the media, “She (Aung San Suu Kyi) can ride broken military chaise until she falls down.” 

Indeed, she is falling down along with the infamous and violent military institution she takes side with. 

The violent image of Myanmar military and the county as a whole is deepening in international community after the military killed thousands of Rohingya and drove out over half million people. The violence again comes to the Buddhist Rakhine people. An endless circle of violence persistence under Noble Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi leadership makes international concern and condemnation and even invited to file genocide law suit against the state before the International Court of Justice for inaction against perpetrators for the crimes. 

In January 2019, she ordered the military to crack down Arakan Army. 

In March, she praised she respected and honored the military personals for bravely fighting against AA and clearing transportation routes in Paletwa township, Chin State. 

Moreover, her office of Ministry of Foreign Affair issued a number of statements and regular news sheets including declaring AA as terrorist organization in March 2020. 

Her ministry also issued a statement by accusing that AA was shooting WHO vehicle without any further proof of evidences.

She also wrote on her State Counsellor webpage that assistances to Internally Displaced Persons would be resolved when the war was brought to an end. 

Military analysts interpreted what she meant to ‘an end of war’ in Rakhine State was she shared the same vision along with the military leaderships that the ongoing excessive military operations would totally win the war against AA. 

This recklessness shows that she is blindly accepting the report of military alone without any review and independent sources. She is also very irritated the armed rebellions rising during her term of power so that she wishes to show off her power she does not tolerate any armed fighting against her government. She even believes that siding with the military would reward her more power so that she could totally control civil administrations and constitution amendment supported by the military. 

Any tangible support of the military has not yet seen, but she has been paying the price for it. Her popularity is dropping, and her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), will not win landslide again in 2020 national election. 

On the other hand, ethnic and opposition parties will win certain portions of the parliamentary seats and hope that they will be able to form a coalition government. 

Ending War in Rakhine State 

Rakhine lawmaker U Hla Saw told during the local media interview that the state has most responsible to end the violent war. He said the state owns decisive forces. If the state wants to halt the military operation, the war is stop in Rakhine. 

Similarly, lawmaker U Phay Than of Maybon township, Rakhine State, told the media the military leaderships have already given a hint if president called the military to end the war, it could be end immediately. 

He continued and said not only the military but also the government leaders fuel escalation of the war in Rakhine. First, Aung San Suu Kyi ordered the military to crash AA. A couple of military spokespersons told about it the press last year. Second, president allowed the military to use helicopters and jet fighters. Third, the president declared AA as terrorist organization. 

The lawmaker criticizes government for leveling the rebel force AA in equal footage, unnecessary competition in responsibility and accountability of protecting life and property as the job of government and that is not accountable of the rebel force. That is totally wrong perception of the government leaderships doing tit-for-tat violence. He urged the government to stop it.  

Analysts agree if Aung San Suu Kyi wants to end the war today, the fighting will stop in Rakhine tomorrow. 

But they said it won’t happen unless an independent actor initiates it.  

Peace Options

There are several options to bring the war to an end: (a) international pressures combined with economic sanctions, armed embargos, UN unsated, and R2P along with the scheme of refugee repatriations, (b) UN sponsored peace talks, (c) combination consortium of Rakhine trustworthy elderlies, Buddhist monks, politicians, and women engagement with tri forces-Commander in Chief Snr Gen Min Aung Hlang, Aung San Suu Kyi, and General Tun Myat Naing.

The ongoing on-and-off peace talks between the government and northern alliance (AA, KIA, TNLA, and MNDDA) are hopeless since trust between these forces are reaching the lowest level. 

First possibility to restore peace in Rakhine is locally and independently formed Rakhine trustworthy consortium engagement with the tri forces and to facilitate for talks. From that end, there will be tangible results. From the results of reduction of collateral damages, political dialogue can begin. With political agreements, all will enjoy peace, prosperous, and developed Rakhine State, where everyone including Rohingya will get equal treatment. 

The second option is United Nations under the Special Envoy can facilitate for the talks between AA, government, and the army. 

If it does not work and the final step, economic sanctions, armed embargo, and UN unsated, if necessary, R2P shall apply on Myanmar. 

At this stage, the local Rakhine independent body shall act and engage with all forces. Sonner is better, and that can save more lives. 


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