The deadly sectarian clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas could derail Burma’s reform process, a prominent activist warned today.
The government today said it had evidence that the communal violence in western Burma over the past 10 days –which left at least 89 dead, 136 injured 32,231 homeless and more than 5,000 houses burned down – was premeditated and orchestrated by organized groups.
The attacks are “a really troubling development [that] threatens the entire process” of reform, said Brian Joseph, senior director for Asia and Global programs at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Unlike the country’s other restive minorities, the Rohingyas are “stateless” and lack the political organizations that give a voice to the Shan, Karenni and other ethnic groups which have “a recognized stake in the country,” he told Al Jazeera (above).*
The conflict raises a fundamental question about the nature of the Burma’s state and its relation to the periphery, said Joseph, a member of the Burma Donors’ Forum.
The United Nations today cautioned Burmese authorities not to use the violence as a pretext to relocate Rohingya settlements.
“This situation must not become an opportunity to permanently remove an unwelcome community,” said a joint statement from Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special rapporteur, and independent experts on minorities and internal displacement.
They voiced their “deep concern about the assertion of the government and others that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants and stateless persons”.
The country’s transition to democracy could be jeopardized if “vigilante attacks, targeted threats and extremist rhetoric” are not halted, U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon has warned.
*On Inside Story, Al Jazeera presenter Teymoor Nabili, speaks to: Maitrii Aung-Thwin,a historian of modern Southeast Asian history at the National University of Singapore, and author of “A History of Myanmar since Ancient Times“; Larry Jagan, a southeast Asia specialist and former BBC World Service Asia editor; and Brian Joseph, the senior director for Asia and Global programs at the National Endowment for Democracy and a member of the Burma Donors’ Forum.