Experts at the first Rohingya-Rakhine online seminar Thursday urged reconciliation of minority Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists to restore sustainable peace in Rakhine state in Myanmar.
“Interestingly we are seeing many Rakhine brothers and sisters, and Rakhine media changing their attitude towards us. It gives us an opportunity to start contemplating and aspiring to a Rohingya – Rakhine reconciliation,” Ro Nay San Lwin, co-founder of Free Rohingya Coalition said at the conference.
The Forces for Renewal of Southeast Asia (FORSEA) in collaboration with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC) organized the “What Future for Rakhine?: End Games for the Arakanese (Rakhine, Rohingyas and Other Co-habitants)” seminar.
Referring to the divide and oppressive policies of the Myanmar government, Lwin said: “Rohingya – Rakhine reconciliation is the opposite of what the Myanmar government wants. They don’t want these two communities to get back together.”
He accused the Aung San Suu Kyi administration of still holding colonial attitudes toward the oppressed — not only Rohingya but also other ethnic communities.
“Since the armed conflict erupted between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military in late 2018, many thousands in Rakhine have been displaced. Hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed. There has been rape too. Rohingya have also died.”
He focused on the long history of violence in Arakan [currently Rakhine] state under the patronization of external powers. “Even before Burma [Myanmar] gained independence from the British, Rohingya and Rakhine were divided by the machinations of foreign powers. However, we have lived peacefully side by side,” he said.
“Decades of toxic political thought, speech and action created further divisions between the Rakhine and Rohingya. Most of the politicians from the Rakhine community supported violence against us,” said Lwin.
Maung Zarni, co-founder of FRC and FORSEA, said “three successive generations of Burmese generals and politicians have morphed into colonizers with brown faces, violating every pre-independence promise, signed agreement and written foundational Constitution of modern post-British Burma, while extracting rich resources and revenues and grabbing vast agricultural land from majority Burmese farmers and all minority regions – at gunpoint.”