(Text of Lecture by Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy on ‘Myanmar: The Rohingya Refugee Crisis, Roots of the Conflict and Possibilities for the Future’ at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) on Thursday, 3 May 2018)
I want to thank Dinusha and the Kadirgamar Institute for inviting me to speak today. This is going to be a somewhat long talk since Myanmar is one of my passions. I encourage you to sit back and relax. You are most welcome to fall asleep if you feel it is too tiresome.
Let me begin immediately by saying I am not going to focus in detail on the state of inquiries undertaken by the United Nations Fact Finding mission on Myanmar. I will speak only from open source material.My purpose today is more to give you a background in which the events under consideration may be better understood.I will deal with incidents under consideration by the Fact Finding Mission but as presented in our March 2018 Interim report.
As an aside I would like to point outthat the military junta that ruled Burma changed its name to Myanmar in 1989 after it had ruthlessly suppressed the democracy movement. Today, however, the name Myanmar has been accepted by all including the democracy movement.
I have been an avid follower of developments in Myanmar after I visited Myanmar in 2007 and 2011 as The United Nations Special Representative on Children and Armed conflict and now as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar- though in the latter capacity we have not been granted access to the country. Myanmar is a enticing country with a rich tapestry which makes the violence and abuse both intriguing and incomprehensible.
I will begin by giving a short history of the peopling of Myanmarwhere there is a consensus among historians especially on areas that have relevance to the topic. I will also focus on General Aung San, the founder of the country, and Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, the Nobel Laureate and the architect of Myanmar’s democratic movement. I will attempt to comment on the Myanmarese security forces, the Tatmadaw, and its dominance even today of post independence Myanmar. I will also try to look at Buddhist radicalization that has changed the landscape of Myanmar politics in recent times and has specific significance for the Rohingya population.
I will also attempt to give in simplified form the long history of conflict between the Tatmadaw and ethnic minorities, other than the Rohingyas, so as to give you a sense of the attitude of the armed forces to ethnic minorities in general, an attitude somewhat different from General Aung San and his daughter. The long history of conflict sets a pattern that has relevance to the events that have taken place in Rakhine state.
I will then turn to the contested history of western Rakhine state, once called Arakan state, where ethnic Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas used to co-exist. and where narratives rather than facts prevail. The ethnic Buddhist Rakhine who live primarily in the South were about 70% of the population and the Muslim Rohingyas who used to live in Northern Rakhine were about 25% of the population. There are running historical battles on the history of the Rakhine state, even the use of the term Rohingyas, their modern history and the body of legislation from independence that discriminates against them. This very contested history sets the stage for deeply held feelings and grievances that have eventually erupted in terrible violence.
Finally, there will be a short reflection on the future of the Rohingya refugees and the options that currently exist and also what can we expect from Myanmar democracy in light of all these developments.
Continue reading ‘“Myanmar:- The Rohingya Refugee Crisis, The Roots of Conflict and Future Possibilities” – Text Of Lecture By Dr.Radhika Coomaraswamy.’ »