There is a real risk that the localized conflict in Rakhine State could take on a more general Buddhist-Muslim dimension and spread to other parts of multi-religious and multi-ethnic Burma, says the International Crisis group (ICG).
In a report titled Myanmar: Storm Clouds on the Horizon, released on November 12, the international think tank said that “even as Myanmar’s [Burma’s] democratic transition continues apace, ethnic violence in Rakhine State represents a threat to national stability.
“It demands decisive moral leadership from all the country’s leaders as they strive to find long-term solutions to the many challenges that lie ahead, including longstanding discrimination of the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities,” it said.
The report comes just days ahead of a historic visit to Burma by US President Barack Obama who is under pressure, according to a report by Reuters, to take a tough line with the Burmese leadership “to do more to curb sectarian violence.”
Meanwhile, a Thai reporter in Phuket has told Mizzima that she witnessed a group of Rohingya boatpeople being transported in security trucks to the town of Ranong at the Thai-Burmese border.
Phuketwan reported on Monday that a boat full of 112 Rohingya boys and men had washed up on the shore of Phuket in southern Thailand on Saturday, and that they were arrested and detained overnight by Thai police.
Quoting a Thai immigration officer in Ranong, the report said that the 112 were to be deported back to Burma immediately.
Mizzima could not verify any details with the Thai authorities.
Several instances have been reported in recent weeks of Rohingya men fleeing Rakhine State on boats, often with disastrous consequences.
On November 7, Associated Press (AP) reported that a boat crowded with illegal migrants had capsized off Bangladesh's coast. Quoting a Bangladeshi border commander by name, the report said that fishing boats had rescued 23 people, but that 50 others remained missing at sea.
“About 70 illegal migrants, mostly Rohingya Muslims, were reportedly traveling on the boat to Malaysia when it sank in the Bay of Bengal,” AP said.