West’s partiality worsens religious divides in Myanmar

Myanmar policemen look at Myo Thu Gyi Muslim village where houses were burnt to the ground near Maungdaw town in northern Rakhine State on August 31, 2017. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of people died as the conflicts between Myanmar security forces and Rohingya militias escalated into the bloodiest fighting in Rakhine state. Western public opinion immediately pointed fingers at the Myanmar government, accusing it of using of "excessive force" and arguing that the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, should take responsibility for the "humanitarian disaster." This is unfair to Myanmar's government. Western accusations will not help to alleviate tensions, but only add fuel to the fire and boost the morale of terrorists.

Ethnic and religious conflicts between the minority Muslim Rohingya and the majority Buddhist population have been simmering for a long time. Suu Kyi reiterated that the government is trying to close up the divides among different sides, welcomes any returning Rohingya with open arms, and has already taken concrete measures to help them obtain citizenship in Myanmar.

However, some extremists resorted to violence against the government instead. Their terrorist attacks failed to address the crisis, but only resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Earlier, Malaysia's counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay warned that Myanmar faces a growing danger of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State (IS), after the detention of a suspected IS follower over an alleged plot to "perform a jihad attack in Myanmar." Some foreign IS supporters are reported to have been involved in the Rakhine violence, providing arms support for Rohingya extremists. In the meantime, even so-called international aid groups are showing their support for the Rohingya to establish an independent state in Myanmar.

Last week, Suu Kyi's office issued a statement accusing international aid staff of assisting terrorists. The international aid workers had "participated while extreme terrorists besieged" a village in Rakhine state, as UN world food program biscuits were found "at the camp where terrorists sheltered," according to the statement. This undoubtedly stoked up discontent by some hard-line Buddhist extremists, further embroiling the already-tense situation.

Western public opinion's overwhelming support for the Rohingya group appears to be of humanitarian concern, but, in essence, is bolstering terrorist activities. It has disrupted and thwarted the Myanmar government's efforts to stabilize the situation in Rakhine. Deterring terrorists from taking root in the country is of vital importance for Myanmar's government at present.

The Chinese public is quite concerned about the situation in Myanmar. China sincerely hopes for a peaceful and stable Myanmar, and does not shy away from its interests in Rakhine. As the starting point of the Sino-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline, Rakhine is of vital importance for Nay Pyi Taw's resource security and economic development, and meanwhile has far-reaching effects on China's Belt and Road initiative and its other cooperative projects with Myanmar.

Courtesy Global Times. Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of Mizzima.

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