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Srikanth Reddy asked: What are the causes for Rakhine unrest? How does it impact democratisation process in Myanmar?

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  • Udai Bhanu Singh replies: Perhaps, the biggest challenge Myanmar regime faces is the task of national reconciliation among the various ethnic groups. In this respect, its challenge is greater than the challenge Indonesia faced in the post-Suharto era of democratisation. Ethnic minorities constitute an important factor in Myanmar’s politics. The Burmans make up about two-thirds of the total population. The ethnic minorities include the Karens, the Shans, the Mons, the Chins, Kachins and the Rohingyas. Only the Rohingyas are not recognised as a national minority. The deep ethnic animosities in Rakhine state continue to destabilise Myanmar with Rohingyas comprising much of the internally displaced population in the country. They have been seeking refuge in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia as the boat people. The commission on Rakhine communal violence submitted its over-100 page report to the president on April 22, 2013. It dealt with the causes of the conflict, solution to the problems that led to the conflict and action points for the government. Earlier, the Human Rights Watch had published a report titled “All You Can do is Pray.”

    Myanmar thus needs to resolve the Rohingya problem: would that be done by granting them citizenship status or by according them ethnic minority status or by reducing the barriers on movement and their absorption in different part of the country, remains to be seen. Many federal solutions, with their respective strengths and weaknesses, have been suggested in this regard, including various models of federalism attempted across Europe and Asia. But the model which would suit Myanmar best would be one which takes the local conditions into account. Could the Indian experience be the one that could be emulated by Myanmar?