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Thai Media Blames Myanmar for Muslim Insurgency

(Original Editorial Published October 19, 2016)

(The Nation) – The government and military will have to bear the blame if estranged Muslim community decides to take up arms.

One can make a strong argument that the ongoing insurgent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has been in the making for some time now.

Just over a week ago, suspected Rohingya militants attacked three border posts, killing nine Myanmar police officers, The Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

Official reports said 62 pieces of arms, 27 bullet cartridges and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition were stolen during the attack.

And then on Tuesday, the same government mouthpiece reported the death of four soldiers and one so-called culprit after troops were attacked “by hundreds of men armed with pistols, swords and knives”.

A “clearance operation” by government forces encountered resistance from a group of villagers who were armed with guns, swords and sticks.

The Buddhist majority in Rakhine State – many would argue with the support of the state – has long oppressed the local Muslim Rohingya, who are dubbed “Bengalis” by the government and denied citizenship.

No group has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks, but two people who have been captured were Rohingya.

Interestingly, the central government has been level-headed in its response. A press conference was held during which an appeal for caution and restraint was urged. De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi refrained from any accusations and reiterated her commitment to peace and stability.

Within days, high-ranking officials were dispatched to the conflict-ridden area to talk to local Muslim leaders.

There is real concern that the stolen weapons will be used against government troops and police at a later date.

There is also a serious danger of the repeat of the 2012 communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims that killed scores of people and displaced tens of thousands.

The level-headed response from the government was not an olive branch and most likely it would not be enough to bring permanent peace.

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