“With each passing day, the current government is starting to look more and more like the pre-2010 government”
A curtain fell on western Burma on Oct. 9, the moment after police said Islamic militants attacked three security outposts along the border with Bangladesh, killing nine officers. Since that announcement six weeks ago, more than 100 people have been killed, hundreds have been detained by the military, more than 150,000 aid-reliant people have been left without food and medical care, dozens of women claim to have been sexually assaulted, more than 1,200 buildings appear to have been razed and at least 30,000 people have fled for their lives.
Humanitarian workers and independent journalists have been banned from affected areas as the Burmese army, known locally as the Tatmadaw, carries out what it calls “clearance operations.” The government, which is headed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, said that those killed were jihadists — information that was gleaned, it said, through interrogations. The government said the rape allegations were false. It said that Muslim terrorists burned down the buildings themselves in an attempt to frame the army for abuse and claim international assistance.
Counterterrorism operations are still under way in Maungdaw, the northernmost township of Arakan state, also known as Rakhine. The township is mostly populated by Rohingya Muslims, a minority that is denied citizenship and is viewed as one of the world’s most persecuted peoples. Elsewhere in the state, as in much of Burma, Buddhists are the majority. There are an estimated 1.1 million Rohingya in Burma. They are systematically denied political representation. They are demonized in the national media. They are so geographically and economically isolated that tens of thousands have fled on dangerous boat voyages, attempting to reach Malaysia.
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