Northern Rakhine State clashes

A series of violent clashes have been ongoing in the northern part of Myanmar's Rakhine State since October 2016. Armed clashes between government forces and Rohingya insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) have led to sectarian attacks by Myanmar's military and the local Buddhist population against Rohingya Muslim civilians. [31] [32] [33] [34] The conflict has sparked international outcry and was described as an ethnic cleansing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. [34] [35] In August 2017, the situation worsened and hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Myanmar into Bangladesh, with an estimated 500,000 refugees having arrived by 27 September 2017. [36] [37]

The Muslim Rohingya minority in the region has historically experienced persecution. [38] [39] [40] Laws such as the 1982 Myanmar nationality law ban Rohingya people from obtaining citizenship, and military operations in 1978, 1991 and 1992 against the Rohingya have led to their displacement throughout Rakhine State. [41] Sectarian violence between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas in 2012 and the 2013 have also caused mass displacements.

The current conflict began on 9 October 2016 when ARSA insurgents attacked Burmese border posts along the BangladeshMyanmar border. In response, Burmese authorities launched "clearance operations" between October 2016 to June 2017, which killed more than 1,000 Rohingya civilians, according to UN officials. [38] [16] Following attacks on military outposts by ARSA on 25 August 2017, sectarian violence erupted once again in northern Rakhine State. The Burmese military estimated that 400 people (whom they claimed were insurgents or terrorists) had died in the clashes that followed. [13] [42] [43] However, the UN estimates that at least 1,000 people were killed between 25 August and 8 September. [44] [18] By September, the violence had resulted in 389,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homes. [45]

Foreign leaders, including the United Nations Secretary General and other high UN officials, and the United Nations Security Council—while acknowledging the initial attack by Rohingya insurgents—have strongly criticized the Myanmar government's conduct in the current conflict, calling for the Myanmar government to restrain its forces and factions, and to stop attacking civilians. [44]


The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority that mainly live in the northern region of Rakhine State, Myanmar, and have been described as one of the world's most persecuted minorities. [46] [47] [48] They describe themselves as descendants of Arab traders and other groups who settled in the region many generations ago. [46] After riots in 2012, academic authors used the term Rohingya to refer to the Muslim community in northern Rakhine. For example, Professor Andrew Selth of Griffith University uses "Rohingya" but states "These are Bengali Muslims who live in Arakan State...most Rohingyas arrived with the British colonialists in the 19th and 20th centuries." [49] Among the overseas Rohingya community, the term has been gaining popularity since the 1990s, though a considerable portion of Muslims in northern Rakhine are unfamiliar with the term and prefer to use alternatives. [50] [51] Scholars have stated that they have been present in the region since the 15th century. [52] However, they have been denied citizenship by the government of Myanmar, which describes them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. [46]

In modern times, the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar dates back to the 1970s. [53] Since then, Rohingya people have regularly been made the target of persecution by the government and nationalist Buddhists. [39] The tension between various religious groups in the country had often been exploited by the past military governments of Myanmar. [46] According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya have suffered from human rights violations under past military dictatorships since 1978, and many have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result. [54] In 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had assisted with the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh, but allegations of human rights abuses in the refugee camps threatened this effort. [55] In 2015, 140,000 Rohingyas remained in IDP camps after communal riots in 2012. [56]