Condemn or Condone: No fence sitting on racial intolerance

As you all might aware, there has been gathering of Rakhine parties at the Arakan National Congress at the moment. The participants include some overseas Rakhines, Rakhine political parties -- surely the RNDP one amongst -- and some members of Buddhist clergy, according to this Irrawaddy report. The members of open press and, obviously, Rohingya (Bengalis) were not invited. On viewing participants at this gathering, we know about the anti-Rohingya policies of RNDP. In addition, there are possibility of usually anti-Islamic Buddhist clergies along with the Overseas Rakhines of which I haven't seen any single one having moderate view on Rohingya. Therefore, we can be fairly certain that there's going to be a gathering of extremist Rakhine nationalists.


As with any extremist gatherings, there does exist a potential for violence. To the international observers, how any future violence in Rakhine State can be contained, we can have a look at the following three instances:

1. The 2012 Riots: This violence came as surprise to international community as well as U Thein Sein government and it was not handled very well. The violence spread quickly and there was delay in its containment. Whilst the RNDP and Rakhines nationalists appears to be the main culprits, the collusion at the levels of Rakhine State authorities cannot be ruled out. U Thein Sein government had conducted an 'Inquiry'. However that inquiry only focuses on certain social and historical aspects of 2012 Rakhine State Riots. The inquiry certainly failed to identify who are behind that riots.

2. The October 2013 Sandoway Riots : Comparing to 2012 Riots, this violence was contained reasonably quickly by U Thein Sein government. This is probably because of the major instigators (RNDP and nationalists) were arrested as an early intervention by the government. For example, in this Irrawaddy report:

"In the unrest’s aftermath, police arrested two RNDP leaders from Thandwe leadership and two members of civil society group Protection of Nationality, Religion and Dhamma. Since then, the total number of arrests has reportedly risen to 35 Arakanese Buddhists and 13 Muslims."
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3. The March 2014 Sittwe Anti-Aid Riots: This is the result of the RNDP and Rakhine nationalists targeting at INGOs/UN supporting the Rohingyas. The riot instigators are also targetting census taking process, which it may include Rohingya(Bengali) as legitimage residents of Rakhine. This riot is resulting extensive damages to UN/INGOs properties. The police detained 12 persons who still are in government detention, this RFA report stated.

In all, the Burma observers outside as well as Burmese government now know who are main culprits for these riots. So, we must keep watching on those extremist groups.


Whilst the racially motivated violence must be swiftly and effectively dealt with existing laws, the Burmese government and political opposition must do more. In particular, the Government officials as well as Opposition must avoid any words or actions that lend credence to the extremists. For example, in this excellent analysis featured in AL Jazeera, how President U Thein Sein and Thura Shwe Mann may have inadvertently lending credence to the extremists. In precise wordings, it reads:

"... President U Thein Sein ....considers the 969 doctrine, despite its intrinsic links with the violence, to be a "symbol of peace". Last week, Shwe Mann, the powerful speaker of the Lower House, said: "I appreciate the attempts of the Rakhine people to protect Myanmar," which feeds the narrative that Bengalis are trying to take over the country's westernmost state, and must be repelled. Consequently, it's not too giant a leap to suggest the government could at least be accommodating whatever forces are mobilising mobs to torch Muslim neighbourhoods"

When we look at the 969 doctrine such as 'Protect race, language and religion', of course, we would have seen nothing wrong. However, what that doesn't make sense in 969 movement is why Islam has been portrayed as a sole threat to Buddhist religion. So too is reported illegal invasions from Bangladesh. Whilst there is not a single illegal Bengali migrant being found in Rakhine, these nationalist group has kept their slogan in order to keep the conflicting issue alive. Basically, this is the common strategy which most extremist groups used to built-up public support (use simple-resonating doctrine & slogan) and to exercise their destructive power against racial/religious minority groups.


Whilst the Government leaders must exercise cautions when speaking on racial and religious issues (i.e. political correctness), the Opposition must not fail to condemn those who expressed extremist views. In the past, Aung San Suu Kyi in particular, did not specifically condemn those who have extremist views and showing racial intolerance. Generally in politics or the exercise of political powers, particular in relation to intolerance, such failure to condemn extremist actions will amounts to condoning. Therefore, it is not enough to simply re-gurgitate text-book phrases on the non-violence mantra. Simply put, there should be no fence sitting on the issue of racial/religious intolerance.


If we all are vigilence on the possible new violence in Rakhine State, the RNDP may consider the other option of bringing the issue of citizenship to the Parliament, perhaps. In the past, the RNDP had tried to curb the political rights of Rohingyas, especially to repeal the 2010 Political Parties Registration Laws. Section 4 in particular, the RNDP is targetting to remove the political rights of Associate Citizens and Temporary Card holders. Check out the document at

In Solidarity,
U Ne Oo, Australia.


RANGOON — Hundreds of representatives of Arakanese Buddhist organizations and political groups will gather for a five-day meeting in Arakan State’s Kyaukphyu Township this weekend to discuss the socioeconomic challenges of their state and the conflict between Arakanese and Rohingya Muslim communities, an organizer of the event said.

Nyi Nyi Maung, secretary of the Working Committee for the Rakhine National Conference, said the first participants would arrive Friday at Kyaukphyu town located on Ramree Island off the Arakanese coast.

“We expect over 1,000 representatives. Representatives from Rangoon are coming by cars today. They may arrive here this evening; representatives also include our Rakhines [Arakanese] who live abroad. We mainly intend to discuss the issue of how to have peace and development in our region,” he told The Irrawaddy.

He said Arakanese community organizations and political parties, such as the Arakan National Party, and Arakan armed rebels groups would attend the event.

Nyi Nyi Maung said some of the discussions will focus on how the Arakanese population can gain greater access to the natural resources of their impoverished state, which has vast offshore oil and gas reserves that are being exported to fund central government coffers.

Since 2012 Arakan State, in particular its northern townships and areas around the state capital Sittwe, has been the site of recurrent outburst of deadly inter-communal violence between Arakanese Buddhists and the approximately one-million strong Rohingya Muslim minority.

Tensions remain high in the region and in recent months Arakanese nationalists have directed their anger at the United Nations and international aid groups supporting some 100,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, displaced by the violence. Last month, riots against the UN and NGOs caused the suspension of aid operations, which have only recently resumed.

Nyi Nyi Maung said the conference would address the ongoing conflict between Arakanese and Rohingya communities, although he would not go into the details of these discussions.

“We only know that we will discuss the issue of the Bengalis, but there are a lot of issues we are going to discuss. This conference is not only focused on the issue of Bengalis,” he said, referring to the Muslim minority as “Bengalis” to suggest that they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

“We could not skip this issue as this is a current problem in our region,” he said, adding that the Arakanese faced a “geography problem” because their state bordered on Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

“There is a large population on the other side [of the border]. Our region is good for them to do business and so, they come into our region,” he said, repeating an often heard claim by the Arakanese that large numbers of Bangladeshis are entering their region.

Ethnic Arakanese organizations have held a large conference to discuss their people’s interests four times before, Nyi Nyi Maing said, adding that during the last event in Yathedaung Township in 2012 the political climate in Burma was less open and fewer people could join.

This time around, he said, “We could invite many representatives to this conference from different townships and every other representative who stay in other regions.”

According to government data, Arakan State’s population number around 3.3 million people, a third of whom are Muslim.

There are also substantial Arakanese communities in Rangoon, Burma’s largest city and commercial capital.

Arakanese nationalist groups and state authorities have been accused by international human rights groups of carrying out a campaign of organized violence against the Rohingya in order to ethnically cleanse Muslim communities from the state.

The US-based Human Rights Watch noted in a 2013 report that large meetings of Arakanese politicians, nationalist organizations and radical Buddhist monks had often preceded outburst of anti-Muslim violence, as joint statements and pamphlets calling for their removal were spread after the meetings.

A member of the conference organizing committee on Friday said Irrawaddy reporters were not welcome at the event as some Arakanese leaders disapprove its coverage of the inter-communal conflict.