Resolving the Military Conflict in Rakhine State
The introduction to the conflict which occurred in Rakhine state in Myanmar was intense. Rakhine state has a diverse population of rakhine Buddhist and rohingya Muslims, out of which more than 70,0000 of them fled to Bangladesh. Since last decade, two hyper serious crisis occurred in the year 2012 and 2016-2017. In 2012, there were deadly communal violence’s followed with attacks on international agencies in year 2014. In 2016, group of population turned military led anti-rohingya campaign. Recently, high conflict between Myanmar military (also known as Tatmadaw) with the Arakan Army (formed of traditional Rakhine Buddhists) has caused serious troubles in Rakhine (Weber 2017)
350 years ago, Rakhine had its own powerful kingdom where pride and dominance existed. It ruled the coastlines of Bay of Bengal and Kingdom’s centre was located at Mrauk-U. Traditionally, Maruk-U became the most famous multi-cultural trade hub and was compared with London, Venice by Europeans. Portuguese merchants traded with Rakhine kingdom, and by UNESCO it was titled as Heritage Status. But in 1785, Burmese conquered Rakhine kingdom and ruled there for forty years (Smith 2019) In 1825, British colonisation came into the picture and with its high colonization power it had a bloody and violent war with Burmese forces.
British colonisation sustained for a longer period of time and it shifted the capital of Rakhine to Sittwe. In the second war, it annexed Lower Burma and its periphery. British started to serve colonial power with lot of injustice, punishments which were served to Muslim slaves. It expanded rice cultivation in Rakhine and started to control half of the Muslim Indians who were from Bay of Bengal. Most of the slaves started to settle in Rakhine and slowly the entire Buddhist community turned into British intervening deeds. But due to British rule, Rakhine was also served with opportunities as most of the Myanmar people were given opportunities to study from top universities.
After World War II Rakhine came under the control of varied communist parties, due to which entire law was disrupted. Most of Muslim leaders formed their own separate area in North Rakhine. Rakhine aspiration for autonomy were never taken as a serious issue either by colonial administers or government. Most of times autonomy was not served with the fear that if powers are given to ethnic regions then they will demand greater rights and this would lead to country break up. After 1947, for the next 50 years Myanmar was under centralized control which exercised serious supervision and did not allowed anyone to meet the ethnic minorities of Rakhine. Due to which Rakhine became isolated and in the late 2000s poverty also accelerated at a rate of 78%, because they were not provided sufficient resources to survive. Rakhine people anger grew on this factor, that it is the Government policy which is exercising the policies to keep them underdeveloped and unnourished. These deep, painful grievances led to the most raging war in the year 2019, leading to the most violent conflagration (Mohajan 2018)
Myanmar’s political liberalisation since 2011, has given powers to ethnic Rakhine people settled in Myanmar to exercise them on their own personal will and decisions. Rakhine ethnics started to celebrate cultural festivals enabling them to rise from the era of repression. Rakhine formed its own political party also known as Arakan National Party, which had won majority of seats in 2010. Due to which a lot of hope were stimulated among Rakhines and trusted National League for Democracy, thinking that it would deliver and understand their human rights. But National Government denied the installing of NLD administration in Rakhine State, due to which their hopes died. If National Government would had taken decisions with Arakan National Party and would had served some benefits, then the case would have been different today. Betrayal from the end of Government raised the anger of Rakhine state (Simpson et al., 2017)
Grievances amplified when police opened up fire on Rakhine state in January 2018, killing seven people and injuring many others. Rakhine famous politician was caught by police for the case of treason and illegal political thefts. This arrest, merely left any chance for political accommodation among Rakhine leaders. This was a golden opportunity then for Government to negotiate with Arakan Army. Due to part on their mistake, Rakhine would had compromised with the situations, but in 2019 Government did not pursued this step. On 4 January 2019, Arakan army attacked thirteen officers on Myanmar’s Independence Day. As a result, Government directed the instant orders to Tatmadaw to crush the situation and initiated clearance operations. This in result leaded to more intense violence measures as use of more airstrikes and heavy artillery was made, causing damage to both public civilians and combatants. If Government would had executed a strategic plan of action to attack, then thousands of people would not had suffered during this pandemic attack of Covid- 2019.
Tamtadaw is struggling to get a full hold on Arakan Army, because it has a high dominance now in Rakhine northern border and Kaladan river. Social presence on twitter and you tube videos is very high from the part of Arakan Army, due to which it becomes successful in gaining support of local recruits. If Government, would had built negotiations with Arakan Army, then loss of innocent lives both of villagers and children would have been saved. Due to Government’s low supervision towards Tatmadaw counter attacks and military troops accelerated the death rates of innocents. Two dozen villagers were killed and more than 2000 people were displaced when Tatmadaw hit villages with airs strikes thinking that it would stand successful to kill hiding Arakan army attackers. To such a big loss, Government did not respond nor did lay emphasis due to which war between both the armies stands unavoidable and extremely violent. As a result, after the major attack on Meewa Camp Government designated Arakan Army as terrorists group. This designation did not result any fear, rather had built slow chances of negotiation now. Arakan Army on response, has mentioned that they wanted to dealt with peace but after this title Government itself has instigated war.
Conflict Management stands essential to reduce the violence tensions and acts as the strengthening tool for entire state as a whole. To resolve the conflict; support from professional security sectors can be raised. Conflicts should be resolved in order to attain unity and to reduce conflict casualties (Hussain 2017) In the early 1990s, conflicts were higher but with resolving of issues through mediums of negotiation numbers were reduced to a greater extent. Timing of conflict resolution should stand precise because if not corrected on time, then it will lead to conclusion only when one party wins. Prior contacts should be established, to build confidence and to solve situation at earliest (Dapice 2017)
One advantage of Early Intervention is it reduces the risks of conflicts and increases the determination of healthy relationships. Mutually problems are solved effectively. Reversly, one disadvantage is that it does not demonstrate constructively the costs of the dispute. During pre-negotiation, results are still unknown and creates suspense situation in terms of peace in state.
One advantage of Late Intervention is that During late intervention, both the parties are known of the damage done. To manage the peace situation costs are effectively decided. On the flip side, one drawback is that it accelerates the rate of violence and tensions, due to which chances of solving and escalation is less.
To resolve a conflict, both the involved parties should identify the loss that they would create to their stakeholders. Both should think from each other’s perspectives and should put themselves in their shoes. Trust building issues should be mitigated in order to listen to varied perspectives despite of pursuing direct actions (Crouch 2019) Questions should be raised in a friendly manner and before judging opposite party’s; deeds should be intervened. A common proposal should be made which satisfies the needs of each other.
Practices of objective should be established first, later prize should be determined. Best alternative should be discovered for negotiated agreement where estimation of opposite party should be executed. A golden bridge should be established where the opposite party feels their needs are recognized. Their ideas, victory thoughts should be encouraged.
Sometimes, the conflict occurs not due to ideas or thoughts but due to historical grievances due to which conflict parties feels strange to the places where they belonged. To resolve the conflict, historical and general grievances should be discovered so as to find out the root cause behind the problem. For example- Madurese were considered like locals in West Kalimantan, but after conflict they did not felt same (Beech 2018)
In order to solve a conflict, practices of inter-ethnic violence should be stopped. Political competition should be de-ethicizing in order to promote fairness, equality among everyone. This reduces the emergence of conflicts.
Figure- Current Situation in Myanmar
(Source- Dapice 2017)
Present situation between Arakan Army and Tatmadaw has caused the situation of Rakhine state to be very miserable and helpless especially in the situations of coronavirus pandemic. If practices of negotiation would had been pursued from the end of Government with Rakhine leaders, then the costs of war would not had emerged. But in order to control the situation, it can still initiate process of late negotiation with Arakan Army because now it is highly aware about the need of peace in state. Conflict management stands as an essential tool, because lives of thousand families, children’s education is at stake. More death rates are increased due to coronavirus pandemic, and due to mobility transmissions in Rakhine state they could not get an access to proper health care services. Conflict resolution should stand as the most prioritized need today, because regular using of bombs, aircraft strikes during attack can build a huge loss for economy too (Thawnghmung 2016)
Rakhine situation would had been controlled, if Government would had given special powers and compensations when NLD betrayed with the emotions of Rakhine. If ANP figures would had been given the recognition to sit for Rakhine State Cabinet, then these situations would not have occurred (Morshed 2017) According to theories of Conflict Management practices of negotiation should always be exercised on right time, because if not it would lead to partitions, war and violence. Government should have understood the longstanding grievances of Rakhine leaders and should have offered them with an equal opportunity.
Mutual Gain approach between Government and Arakan Army, would never rage the fire within Rakhine state. Government should offer negotiation because the main stake holders stands be the common public who are losing their lives in this race. It should initiate steps of meetings with Arakan Army to understand their demands and needs through the mediums of non-violent and peaceful approach. Government before arresting and designating should understand the cause behind the intervention of deeds, this would build a sense of mutual trust. Even if Government is saying no to political demands of Rakhine, it should address it in a positive way possible. This act of kindness will reduce feelings of anger and hatred (Lee 2020)
Government should have approached for advice from Rakhine leaders, so as to get an idea about their demands and requirements. If it would had established a mutual programme satisfying the needs of both the parties, then situations of deadly wars would not have occurred. Based on their demands and grievances, it should have served the best negotiation agreement which had an involvement of mutual trust and confidence (Chen 2016) It is the fault of Government that in the first place it did not delivered basic necessities to Rakhine state. Secondly it betrayed the trust and hope of Rakhine public by not giving them access to varied human rights. If their ideas and thoughts would have been accomplished, conflicts would never had occurred. Effective communications with the most isolated state would had helped them to get a true guide. In order to now resolve conflicts, Government should establish golden bridge with localities in terms of fulfilling their demands and long term required needs. Negotiation would stop practices of harmful attacking, which would act as a productive step to save lives of common people.
Practices of Bargaining can be exercised by Government with Arakan Army in order to ensure that they do not function any harmful attack and would act in correspondence to maintain peaceful situations. If Government ensures that in the coming general elections Rakhine would be subjected powerful political dominance, then chances of conflict would be minimized. This deal would can aim to reduce the attacks in villages and would allow everyone to stay peacefully (Savu 2019) Promises and strong determination commitment from Government to Arakan Army, will diminish all the attacks that were previously served from the end of Tamtadaw. Rakhine since years is struggling to gain equal opportunities in political domain and if government bargains to give equal share rights; then main reason would behind war would be curtailed.
According to micro theories of conflict management, if demonstrative communication is made by Government, then Rakhine would probably stop all its injustice means. If it negotiates to provide all the essential health care services to the needy ones and opens up the internet services, then chances stand strong that Arakan Army would not intervene in elections violently. This would build mutual communication, aiding to trim all the negative externalities that were created due to war. Due to current control of Arakan Army in the northern parts, curfew starts at 6pm leading common public, supervisor officers to stay away. If proper deals of promises are made between Arakan Army and Government, then elections and trainings related to it can be easily conducted in northern states, cutting the current constraint (Cheesman, 2016) In order to remove the conflict, practices of Mutual Gain approach stand to be the most required need. If Government mutually decides to remove the designation of terrorist title in exchange of peace and no war exercises, then chances are strong Arakan Army would agree. Being titled as a terrorist group lifetime, it would not be able to establish its own Rakhine Kingdom on legal basis. This negotiation would act as a golden opportunity for both of them, because the specific needs would be recognized in this process thus building peaceful current situation.
Figure- Rohingya Crisis
(Source- Sokla 2019)
After the attack on Meewa camp, Myanmar Government and authorities designated it as terrorist group under 2014 Consumer Terrorist Law. But, the decision of Government to title Arakn Army stood wrong because no beneficial change was reflected after. Rather, this title provoked the casual activities and anger of Arakan Group and to the response, they also mentioned that this step was very mean and politically biased. In order to prevent the war from growing Government should take back the title, because if it does not execute this step then they would continue to pursue threat attack (Fang 2018). Due to these ongoing attacks, children’s education, villagers live and trainings related to elections all would be impacted to a greater extent.
Officers and health providers are also not serving their operations in Northern border of Rakhine due to prevalent fears of terrorism attack. Due to which, common public is not accessible to health care facilities especially women’s who are facing huge issues. If Government does not negotiate by coming upfront, then threat attacks would again be witnessed during the time of elections. Since April 1 Arakan Group has stopped its offensive attacks due to this pandemic situation, but it did not promise to stop. Taking the advantage of this situation, Myanmar Government can bargain with Arakan Army and can convince them that it is ready to free them with all the imposed charges. It can also promise to provide all the necessary health care services from World Health Organization, if it promises to say no to any more attacks and wars (Sokla 2019)
Figure- Recent Battles of Arakan Army
(Source- Seekins 2020)
Since decades Arakan Army is struggling to create its own political domain culture. After the British colonization their dreams of exercising as an independent state has shattered. The main reason behind their defensive wars stands to be the betrayal and false promises that they have always received from the end of political organizations. If Government promises and gains their confidence by serving pardoning to Rakhine leaders, then it will act as a positive measure. These activities will stimulate the confidence with Arakan Army and would make to enable to think about the deal offer. If Government provides evidences, commitment and pardons Rakhine political leader DE Aye Muang, it will result in engaging communication from their end. If government also ensures that NLD Government during these elections will not exercise the practices to instil a minority NLD government in Rakhine state, it would serve Rakhine people to gain confidence. Written and oral commitment from the end of Government to appoint a chief minister only from the largest bloc of Rakhine’s state legislature would stimulate peaceful solutions from side of Arakan Army (South 2020)
If the government makes progression in this direction and makes them assure of the fact that restriction on media freedom and internet ban would be lifted, then chances are too high that it will stop war practices happily. Access to equal opportunities and the fulfilment of demands if stands to be the loyal commitment of Government, then most of the internally displaced people would return back to their homes fearlessly. If Government declares free humanitarian access to journalists, media channels to cover Arakan Army, then the main motive behind the war would be served. Arakan Army itself on media would be liable to promise non-violence approach and being trust worthy with its social fans, Government would also become confident of the fact that they wouldn’t break their social message.
Government before judging and punishing the attackers should aim to understand the root cause behind this rage, personal and defensive attacks. In non-violent manner it should try to understand the demanding conditions of Arakan Army. Based on which, it should execute orders to military troops because most of the attacks were conducted by military team without taking the prior permission from top authorities. Arakan Army has a huge distrust issue with government’s humanitarian response, but through the initiative steps of negotiation both can find a peaceful situation. Since 2011, Rakhine leaders had participated in a potential manner during elections and since then it had huge trust on political system (Dapice 2016)
But after their dreams were shattered, they chose an opponent approach but if Government listens to them and provides them all their equal rights, then it would act as a great relief. Building up of the bargaining criteria’s during this critical situation, will act as a beneficial measure for both of them. Rakhine would be able to get all the medical services on time, whereas on the other hand elections would be conducted in a peaceful manner. If Government provides greater autonomy to minority communities and fulfils the long term vision of Rakhine state, then the situation of national peace would definitely stimulate. Once, the non-violent communication is exercised by Government’s end then the case of Rohingya would also be solved constructively (Krishna 2018) After the non-violent communication, Napitaw would also be capable to exercise strategy that bridges the gap between Rakhine State and Rohingya crisis as both of them are directly interlinked. Effective non-violent approach from the end of Government in this situation would save the lives of thousand refugees who stands hiding due to terror attacks. Political marginalization in favour of the Rakhine grievances, would make them feel satisfied that their future is secured for long term stopping them to commit exercises of diverse attacks (Seekins 2020)
Situation of Coronavirus pandemic attacks stands as the global opportunity for Government to negotiate with Arakan Army. Rakhine is already struggling to get an access to medical facilities as it is being declared terrorist due to which if any doctors, journals try to meet would be severely punished. Hence, it stands the weak point for Rakhine as it cannot seek help due to restrictions on mobility. If in this situation, Government ensures a kind gesture and promises full care support to Rakhine, then areas of conflict and personal hatred would be minimized.
Government in order to control the situation of elections and coronavirus pandemic needs the support of Rakhine, due to which bargaining stands essential to stabilize current situation. Even if government decides to cancel the elections or boycott Rakhine votes, then also the elections would be impacted. As, most of the public in Rakhine state stands to be soldiers and civil servants who are non-ethnic Rakhine and are interested to vote for big parties. In order to promote its long term power, Government is bound to resolve the conflicts because the dominance and threat of Arakan Army stands to be strong. Warnings have already been issued by Arakan Army, hinting the massive attacks in the different parts of Rakhine, like south townships where the power of NLD is strongest. So, in order to control the entire situation, it stands essential that Government makes Arakn Army realize that in these tough situations they need to join hands (Kyaw 2020) Instead of targeting and planning attacks, both should act in harmony and cooperation to save their lives. Military solution does not stand the way to attain long term desired peace, because the phase of war would not stop until and unless one receives a satisfied victory. In this urge of victory, thousands of lives are suffered and wasted serving only hatred, pollution and theft risks. It is the responsibility of Government to serve best alternative negotiation and part its duty of welfare towards Rakhine in Covid-19 situations (Ware 2018). Rakhine political leaders are helpless now because their leaders are facing lack of political strategies due to which it is not able to seek even medical health. In order to trim all these factors, Government should pursue non-violent conversations and should take them in confidence that all their demands would be fulfilled only if they are ready to comply with peace measures (Lee 2016). If these practices get approved by Arakan Army, then legitimacy of elections would not be hampered and efficient trainings can be covered without any terror attack fear.
It can be concluded that conflict of Arakan Army’s is very devastating and painful for the entire Rakhine state, as the war is taking the lives of innocent civilian populations. Even the pandemic attack of Covid-19 has not instilled any fears leading to corruption and escalation of conflicts. Due to the failure strategic approach of Government and casual negligence the situations had turned so bad and dominant especially in Northern borders. Practices of conflict management and mutual approach has not been exercised due to which lives of thousands had gone in the war attacks. Government’s low willingness to understand longstanding grievances of Rakhine, has given the full power to Military to exercise leading to emergence of more worst situations.
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