Friday, May 17, 2024

Myanmar conflict: NUG & Experts seek diplomatic intervention to usher peace in Rakhine State

Special Correspondent

An international dialogue titled “Building Bridges of Harmony: A Holistic Strategy for Social Cohesion, Peace and Stability in Post-Civil War Arakan/Rakhine” was held at the EMK Center in Dhaka’s Gulshan from 10 AM to 12:30 pm on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

The hybrid roundtable discussion was hosted by Cox’s Bazar International Forum (CBIF), in collaboration with the Bangladesh Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs (BCIPA).

The event aimed to address the ongoing civil war in Myanmar and its impact on the borders, as well as the future of the Rohingya genocide survivors after the civil war ends.

Participants included renowned security and geopolitics experts like Lt Gen Mahfuzur Rahman (retd), former Principal Staff Officer of Bangladesh Army, Maj Gen Shahidul Haque (retd), former ambassador, Brig Gen Shakhawat Hossain (retd), former Election Commissioner, Arakan Rohingya National Alliance (ARNA) Chairman Mr Nurul Islam, Myanmar National Unity Government’s (NUG) Deputy Minister of Human Rights Mr Aung Kyaw Mo, Minister of Federal Union Affairs Dr Lian Hmung Sakhong, Steve Ross, Senior Advisor and Program Director at the Richardson Center for Global Engagement and Dr Shahab Enam Khan, BCIPA executive director, among other key participants.

Muhibbul Muktqdir Tanim, the joint convenor of Cox’s Bazar International Forum (CBIF), welcomed the guests and panellists and emphasised the importance of the event due to the ongoing situation in Myanmar. Lt Gen Mahfuzur Rahman (retd) served as the moderator.

The moderator, in his opening speech, explained the strategic significance of Rakhine State for both India and China, considering the Asian powers’ national interests. He also provided insightful perspectives on the roles played by different armed groups causing the current situation in Rakhine.

Maj Gen. Shahidul Haque delved into the root causes of the Rakhine conflict, comparing Arakan to the Palestine of the Far East and highlighting historical factors contributing to the crisis. He also shed light on the historical backdrop and identified three key factors contributing to the crisis in Myanmar today: the interpretation of history, demographic shifts, and the failure to implement the Panglong Agreement.

Steve Ross shared his expert perspective on the significance of social cohesion in Rakhine and its implications for Myanmar as a whole. Acknowledging the international community’s limited resources and attention to allocate due to competing priorities, Ross argued that the conflict in Rakhine should be viewed as a microcosm of the challenges facing Myanmar. He emphasised the widespread oppression, human rights abuses, extreme political marginalisation, poverty, and the divide-and-rule tactics employed by the military as significant hurdles to establishing social cohesion.

Aung Kywa Mo highlighted the demographic shifts in Rakhine state, primarily stemming from the conflict of 1942. He pointed out a series of systematic, state-sponsored human rights violations against the Rohingya people throughout various years, including 1962, 1978, 1992, 2016, and 2017. Mo emphasised the use of identity politics and Islamophobia by the military government for political gain. He stressed the importance of drawing lessons from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where diverse communities coexist, as a model for promoting social cohesion in Rakhine. Mo also expressed appreciation for the generosity of the Bangladeshi people and government in hosting over a million Rohingya refugees.

Acknowledging the ethnic cleansing and genocide that took place in Myanmar in 2017, Dr Lian Sakhong emphasised the necessity of overthrowing military regimes, including abolishing the current citizenship law. Dr Sakhong also stressed the need to overthrow military regimes and rebuild Myanmar through democratic and federalist principles.

Renowned journalist Altaf Parvez advocated for politics centred on federalism rather than identity politics while Shafiqul Alam, the AFP bureau chief in Bangladesh, highlighted the importance of establishing an international standard media outlet by the Rohingya people to counter misinformation.

Brig Gen Shakhawat Hossain (retd) suggested that the Bangladesh government consider the potential role of the Arakan Army in fostering peace in Rakhine and facilitating the return of Rohingya people.

From the host community, Barrister Mizan Sayeed emphasised the suffering of the host community and the importance of dialogue.

The question and answer session was participated in by CBIF Joint Convener Sharjil Ahsan, Tashmiah Nowshin, Jesmin Sultana, Imrul Hassan, Arfat Ullah Shoaib, and many more.

CBIF Joint Convener Sujan Sharma delivered the vote of thanks at the end.

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