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New Attempted Bombings in Myanmar Could Be Prelude to New Disaster

by Joshua Kurlantzick
November 21, 2013

A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

This past week, reports from Myanmar police have emerged that a group of men were planning to launch bomb attacks at mosques across the country. The suspects, all Buddhist, all allegedly came from Rakhine/Arakan state, the site of the country’s worst Buddhist-Muslim violence over the past two years.

Meanwhile, this week the Myanmar government publicly rejected calls by the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee to grant Myanmar citizenship to Rohingya Muslims. Instead, Naypyidaw declared that it does not admit the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group in the country. Naypyidaw spokespeople further declared, according to the Irrawaddy, that:

The government would consider granting Burmese citizenship to ‘Bengalis’ who are eligible under the 1982 Citizenship Law—a piece of legislation that has been condemned by international human rights groups as discriminatory towards the [Rohingya] Muslim group.

Indeed, the disastrous 1982 law is one of the pieces of legislation that basically legalized discrimination against the Rohingya in the first place, and set the stage for the last two years of pogroms by Buddhist Arakanese against Rohingya in western Myanmar. The past two years of violence already have left over 140,000 people—mostly Rohingya internally displaced, living in the jungle or in horrid IDP camps.

The threat of new mosque bombings, the government announcement, and wild rumors in western Myanmar that Buddhist paramilitary groups are gearing up again to attack Muslims has led to fears that violence on the scale of 2012 is coming again to Rakhine/Arakan State and even other parts of the country with significant religious mixes. In the past few days, thousands of Rohingya have tried to flee western Myanmar on horrendously built boats, while reports suggest many more are heading into the hills again, leaving towns where they might be attacked. Myanmar’s slide into instability continues.

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