In June 2012, inter-communal violence spread through Rakhine (Arakan) State on the western border of Myanmar (Burma). Allegedly sparked by the rape and murder of a young woman on May 27, reprisal attacks between persons described as ethnic Rakhines and Burmese on the one side and Rohingyas and Bengalis on the other escalated rapidly after the killing of ten Muslims on a bus. Thousands of people began fleeing towards Bangladesh-many not for the first time-whose government promptly closed the border. Following the imposition of a state of emergency, the conflict subsided. However, the many social, economic and political factors contributing to the conflict remain unaddressed, and all indications are that problems will persist.
Events in Rakhine State have variously been cast as the result of an ethnic or religious feud; a matter of national security, of national identity, or of simple criminality; and, the consequence of deliberate instigation from one party or another, or of population pressures and larger geopolitics. The violence is difficult to describe, analyse and address partly because no basic consensus exists about its essential features, let alone what might be done about it.
What is going on in Rakhine State and why? How are we to make sense of the conflict? Join scholars from the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the ANU as we sketch the parameters of the latest violence, tease apart some of its history, look at the role of Bangladesh, and also examine the work of international agencies in Myanmar's west.
About the Panelists
Dr Nicholas Farrelly is a research fellow at the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, ANU, co-founder of the New Mandala website and an expert on conflict in northern Myanmar
Dr Nick Cheesman is a lecturer in the Department of Political and Social Change, ANU, whose PhD thesis examined the politics of law and order in Myanmar
Mr Obaidul Haque is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Political and Social Change, ANU and former lecturer in international relations at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh who is researching conflict and peace building in the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Mr Trevor Wilson is a visiting fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change, ANU, and a former Australian ambassador to Myanmar (2000-2003)
Moderated by: Associate Professor Andrew Walker, Associate Dean (Education) and Senior Fellow, Department of Political & Social Change, ANU
Date: Thursday, 27 September 2012