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ARNA Situation Report on Arakan & Myanmar

IDPs and Refugees Situation

Since February 1, 2021 coup the political, socio-economic and security situation in Myanmar is fast changing. Hundreds of thousands of Myanmar people fled to neighboring countries and displaced within the country, mostly to areas controlled by ethnic armed organisations (EBO)s. The number of internally displaced people (IDPs) surpassed 1.8 million in war-ravaged Myanmar on June 12, 2023 according to the Report of UNHCR on June 30, 2023.According to latest report a total of 142,000 Rohingyas are still displaced. The Myanmar regime gave the Rohingya IDPs three options in order to shut down IDP camps according to the Arakan Advisory Commission Recommendations: 1. They have to relocate to places sanctioned by the government, 2. They can relocate to places of choice but on their own expense of housing, land and other necessities, 3. They can relocate to their own homes, which practically is not existing. Most people opted to move to government sanctioned places which are not suitable for habitation facing extreme difficulties in movement, environment, employment opportunities and seeking education. 14 IDP camps around Sittwe, capital city of Arakan decided not to relocate and remain in IDP camps with no access to clean drinking water, education and livelihood. Movement restriction is severe. Anyone willing to go to Sittwe must avail written permission from camp authorities and can move with security escort onlyfor which they have to pay. As racial tension has not subsided it is nearly impossible for any Rohingyato travel a 10-minute drive from IDP camps to Sittwe even with security guards. According to UNHCR report the most basic needs of Rohingyas in Rakhine state are freedom of movement, access to basic services and a pathway to citizenship which are recommended by Advisory Commission on Rakhine state and which remained unfulfilled. As the people in IDP camps are passing their days in extreme difficulties with no possibility of a better future, many of them risk their lives to embark on dangerous journeys by sea and by land. A number of human trafficking syndicates, mainly managed by Rakhine people with the cooperation of some Rohingyas, have engaged in the business of trafficking the Muslims to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand etc. Many Rohingya girls and women are violated by these traffickers and their helpers along the journey. Many of them got arrested and jailed and many unfortunate ones faced death by drowning in the sea. This is happening every now and then particularly when the sea is calm.

There are over 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh ,bulk of whom arrived in 2017. They are living in extremely congested, crammed and tarpaulin roofed shelters having inadequate sanitation and clean environment. Almost 7 years have elapsed most of the refugees could not think yet to return to Arakan in the prevailing situation there without citizenship and other necessities for a sustainable repatriation. However, a tripartite understanding between Myanmar, China and Bangladesh to attempt repatriation as a pilot project has agreed to send 3000 refugees before the end of December. It is still to be seen the result of the pilot project before claiming for sure it will have a good impact in the contemplated sustainable repatriation. Meanwhile international human rights organisations have warned that the ground situation in Arakan is not conducive now for the refugees to return. Speaking on the side-lines of a regional meeting on Rohingya refugee assistance in Bangladesh held on 17 October, 2023 in Bangkok UNHCR Chief Mr. Filippo Grandi emphasized that a “voluntary, dignified return to Myanmar” by the Rohingya refugees is the most desirable solution but acknowledged that there are “many challenges that need to be overcome”. The meeting was attended by delegates from Bangladesh, Britain, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and United States.

Socio-economic Situation

Inter-communal harmony and peaceful co-existence has not been normalised in Arakan. However the situation is much better in proper Burma. There are serious racial hatred between Rohingya and Rakhine communities. After the rise of Arakan Army (AA) Rohingyas are facing persecution from both AA and the regime. The economic situation of Myanmar, particularly after military coup of 2021, has been declining making severe hardship for Myanmar people. Economic sanctions have been imposed in various sectors particularly by western countries since military coup. The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions recently on Myanmar’s state owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a joint venture partner in all offshore gas projects and a vital resource of hard cash for the military regime. The US, UK and Canada have imposed sanctions on companies providing financial resources to the military government and high ranking officials. The border trade halted to a standstill along China- Myanmar border due to fighting and control of Muse and other important cities by the resistance.

Political and Security Situation

Since Feb. 2021 the whole country is engulfed with agitation, followed by severe crackdown, arrests and torture and exodus of people across the border and EAO controlled areas as refugees and IDPs. Various resistance groups sprang up in the name of PDF which confronted the military along with other ethnic armed groups. The resistance has now spread to Burmese Buddhist heartland of Central Burma giving tough time to the regime. Meanwhile ethnic armed groups formed various military alliances also to confront the military effectively like the Northern Alliance and Brotherhood Alliance. Now over 70% of the Burmese territory is reportedly controlled by EAO and PDF. Large-scale surrender of regime forces have been taking place. Almost all territories in Northern Shan State and south-eastern region in Karreni are fully liberated recently. The regime is finding increasingly difficult to have new recruits. Heads of three important EAOs recently claimed that the fall of the military junta is imminent. In the western Rakhine state the situation is calm due to temporary ceasefire between the powerful Arakan Army and the military.

Elected members of the last general elections held in 2020 formed a shadow government known as National Unity Government (NUG) which is informally recognised by many western countries and providing assistance in various forms. The NUG’s declared objective of establishing a Federal Democratic Union is a matter of negotiation between various stakeholders.

The military junta is facing a genocide case in ICJ sued by the state of Gambia which is in process and a decision thereof is yet to come. The NUG has informed the ICJ that it will fully cooperate with the ICJ proceedings.

China and Russia, two veto wielding powers, are still in support of the military junta and providing much needed political support in various international fora.

Contact : Zaw Min Htut

Founding Member , CEC and Japan Representative

Arakan Rohingya National Organisation ARNA

Phone Number : +81 80 3083 5327

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