Myanmar: Promises Are Really Cheap


June 7, 2018: The new agreement between the government and UN is considered unlikely to help Burmese Rohingya Moslem refugees in Bangladesh. It was immediately pointed out that the agreement is about what the UN and government will do, not what they must do according to any set schedule. Moreover, China continues to use its veto to block any meaningful UN action against Burma over the Rohingya issue.

In the meantime at least 8,000 more Burmese Rohingya Moslems have fled to Bangladesh in 2018. The 700,000 Burmese refugees in Bangladesh are stuck there for what appears to be an extended period. The Burmese government insists that only validated Burmese residents will be allowed back and the verification process is stalled with only about a thousand Rohingya “verified” as Burmese. The UN agreement is unlikely to change that because the Burmese, with some justification, are insisting on documentation from refugees and many have not got it. Burma was approving less than ten percent of the names Bangladesh presents as authentic Burmese Rohingya and that may be increased to appease the UN but even then that does not guarantee that the refugee will return. The repatriation back to Burma of was supposed to begin in January 2018 but continued army violence against Rohingya still in Burma made that impossible. Added to that were the administrative problems and so much more. Those Rohingya going back must do so voluntarily and the refugees know what is going on in their former neighborhoods. That’s because Rohingya willing to go back want to return to their homes and property. If their home was destroyed (as many were during the military violence) the returnees want an opportunity to rebuild and for the government to supply money and supplies to make that possible. That would be difficult because in many of the areas Rohingya fled from local officials have treated the former Rohingya property as “abandoned” and available or resale and reuse. The UN can demand that the government do something about that and the government can refer the disputes to Burmese courts where each claim must be litigated.

The government is under no binding obligation to expedite this repatriation process. Rohingya refugees are aware of this and will not return until the government clears up the property ownership issues. That happening is considered an impossible dream by all concerned. As a result, many Rohingya refugees are seeking new homelands. Bangladesh is not considered a good candidate because the country is already crowded and poor and long the source of illegal migrants to other nations. At the moment Moslem refugees are a hard sell, even in Moslem countries. No one is willing to take a lot of Rohingya and Bangladesh does not like being stuck with these large refugee camps near the Burmese border. Because the Rohingya are Moslem most Moslem nations have been quick to condemn Burma and urge international efforts to force Burma to take back the Rohingya.

June 6, 2018: The government signed an agreement with the UN to cooperate in expediting the repatriation of over 700,000 Burmese Rohingya driven into Bangladesh by the military and Buddhist vigilante violence.

May 31, 2018: In the northwest (Rakhine State) the government is seeking people willing to be caretakers of farming operations left behind when their Rohingya owners were driven into Bangladesh in 2017. There are not enough people in Rakhine to do this. There are at least 28,000 hectares (70,000 acres) of very productive farmland that is unattended. The state government offered to lease out the farmland to individuals or companies.

May 25, 2018: In the northwest (Rakhine State) Islamic terrorist group ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) denied accusations that it had attacked several Hindu villages (in August 2017) and killed at least 99 Hindus. There have been persistent reports but not a lot of conclusive evidence that ARSA sought out and murdered Hindus. Islamic terrorists tend to take credit for their attacks, not deny them, so it’s unclear what is going on with this. For Rakhine State Islamic terrorists first showed up in late 2016 and August 2017 when there were attacks by a Rohingya Islamic terrorist group called ARSA. Its founder (a Rohingya expatriate) and much of the cash came from Saudi Arabia. Burma prefers to call groups like ARSA Islamic terrorists but until ARSA and the Saudi cash showed up there had not been much, if any, a religious aspect to the armed Rohingya resistance. ARSA was openly calling for Rohingya worldwide to support a war against Burma for the bad treatment the Rohingya have received, especially since 2012. Until this new document appeared ARSA had denied any connection with al Qaeda but that has apparently changed. The ARSA leader; Ataullah Abu Ammar Jununi (or just Ata Ullah) has received more attention now that Islamic terror groups like al Qaeda are calling for its members to help ARSA and the Burmese Rohingya any way they can. Since August 2017 there have been no more large-scale ARSA attacks but there have been some clashes with security forces. For the moment ARSA is largely a force on the Internet, not on the ground.

May 22, 2018: China is again calling on Burma to keep the peace along its border with China. On the 12th an attack near the border left three Chinese dead in Burma and three rockets and many bullets landing on the Chinese side of the border. The government must make a suitable response because the Chinese UN veto is needed to help the government from getting punished by the UN over the Rohingya issue. China is also pressuring the four tribal rebel groups of the Northern Alliance to join peace negotiations with most other tribal rebels and the government are having. China can make it more difficult for the Northern Alliance to access China (for supplies, refuge or whatever).

May 21, 2018: In the north (Kachin State) local officials alerted the national government that 2,000 logs seized from smugglers at the end of 2017 were now being loaded on trucks by smugglers and taken to China. Army and police personnel would not stop them and neither would local tribal rebels who control some of the roads the smugglers must use to get the logs to China. Courts had ordered the logs be sold to legitimate buyers but that never happened. Locals were able to provide cell phone photos of the log trucks heading north. Apparently the smugglers had arranged bribes for everyone connected with the theft and illegal export of the logs. Officially China wants to stop the illegal export of Burmese drugs, jade and timber to China. Unofficially only the drugs are opposed. Illegal timber and jade from Burma is tolerated because these are legal commodities (once they enter China). Yet illegal logging is a major grievance for the northern tribes and the government will occasionally pressure China to cooperate in curbing the deforestation and damage to tribal lands. The last time China cracked down was in 2005 but as is common with these things the bribes (to local officials and soldiers as well as border guards to allow the timber to reach customers) eventually had their way and now the illegal timber trade is as big as ever and the tribes are increasing the pressure on the government to act. The situation is worse than in 2005 because now the illegal logging has gone deeper into Burma to find the rosewood and teak that is the most profitable. The illegal logging crews have their own security and will often bribe local soldiers to help out. Sometimes the tribal militias were bribed as well but most of the time the armed tribesmen were not willing to sell out their neighborhood. There are exceptions and this was apparently one of them.

May 18, 2018: China increased security on its Burma border in the wake of the recent violence that left three Chinese dead.

May 15, 2018: In the north (Shan State) the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) denied having anything to do with the recent attack on the Pangsay casino. The government insisted the attack was a joint operation by the KIA and TNLA (to justify a major crackdown on both groups). TNLA did admit that one reason for the casino attack was to take the army pressure off its KIA allies. In any event, the army increased its pressure on KIA territory.

May 12, 2018: In the north (Shan State) TNLA (Tang National Liberation Army) tribal rebels attacked an army base near the Chinese border, leaving 32 dead and 30 wounded. Among the dead were three Chinese there for the casino as well as four soldiers. The purpose of the attack was to shut down an illegal casino operated by the pro-government Pangsay tribal militia.


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