The battle has been expected and feared for weeks.
As former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan prepared last Thursday to release a year-long study on the ethnic turmoil that has plagued Burma’s northwestern Rakhine state, Burma’s military was already stepping up preparations for new “clearance operations” against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
For two months, Burma’s military had been increasing troop levels in Rakhine state and had reportedly armed radical Buddhist militias that demand the expulsion of the Rohingya.
Since late July a number of Rohingya communities had been blockaded by the militias, preventing people from going to work or fetching food and water.
Human rights groups and international aid agencies warned of a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since last October, when Rohingya villages were burned, nearly 1,000 people were killed, thousands of refugees fled to Bangladesh and Burma’s military was accused of crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, the systematic use of rape, torture, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings.
The explosion finally came just hours after the independent commission headed by Annan released its report Thursday.
After a year of consultations, Annan’s commission urged Burma’s government to act immediately to prevent violence, maintain peace and foster reconciliation in Rakhine state.
“What is needed is a calibrated approach — one that combines political, developmental, security and human rights responses to ensure that violence does not escalate and inter-communal tensions are kept under control,” the report said.
This article originally was published in Toronto Star