Since October, Myanmar’s military killed at least 60 Muslims, preventing humanitarian aid and independent observers from entering the combat zone. For archbishop of Yangon, “Myanmar needs only one religion today: peace”.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Recent clashes between Myanmar’s armed forces (Tatmadaw) and what the military call a "a militant group of Rohingya Muslims" have increased. In the latest incident, at least 30 Muslim fighters are said to have died. This has led Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, to issue an appeal over the renewed fighting between government forces and rebel groups in Rakhine State (western Myanmar).
“We, representatives of all religions living in Myanmar,” says the cardinal, “earnestly appeal to our countrymen and women, our political leaders, our military leaders and armed groups, to seek the path of reconciliation and make peace the common religion of all our people.”
Rohingya are a Muslim minority (just over a million people) originally from Bangladesh, who have been denied Myanmar citizenship and whose members live in refugee camps in several parts of the country.
Current military operations are concentrated in Maungdaw, on the border with Bangladesh. Security forces have cordoned off the area, preventing the entry of humanitarian aid and independent observers.
Since early October, 60 Rohingyas and 17 government soldiers have died in clashes. Government soldiers continue to go from village to village to clear them of rebel elements. The fighting is the worst since 2012, when hundreds died.
Residents and human rights activists have slammed the military for carrying out summary executions, rapes and arson. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 430 homes of Rohingya refugees were set on fire for no reason.
A month after his last appeal for an end to the fighting (which is also taking place in Kachin and Karen states), Card Bo said the "nightmare of war continues. More than 200,000 are refugees in their own land”, noting that “Internal Displacement has as its consequences human trafficking, the drug menace and exploding violence in the communities.”
In a country of about 135 ethnic groups, peaceful coexistence has always been a struggle, especially with the central government, which is dominated by ethnic Burmese.
After the military and several rebel groups signed an armistice in October 2015, peace talks resumed in late August at the Panglong Conference (promoted by Aung San Suu Kyi), but so far they have not yielded any of the desired results.
For Card Bo, “Our wars are not winnable. Sixty years have proved that. They have inflicted chronic suffering on thousands. They have deterred human development and provoked greater animosity.”
Instead, “We appeal to all of you – political leaders of the NLD*, military leaders, armed group leaders, ethnic political parties and civil society groups – to explore a consensual politics of conflict resolution.
“We appeal to all religious leaders to be instrument of peace. Myanmar needs only one religion today: peace”.
*NLD: National league for Democracy, Myanmar’s main political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi.