Rohingya crisis reveals larger problems besetting Myanmar

By Bi Shihong Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/18 23:58:39

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said in a televised address on October 12 that the country plans to set up the "Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine" chaired by herself, in a bid to achieve cooperation among the government, local and international organizations and civil society in various areas.

The increasing tensions over northern Rakhine State have jeopardized Myanmar's national image and development. The Rohingya crisis, if not properly handled, is likely to become a breeding ground for terrorism.

Suu Kyi called for national unity led by the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, together with the Myanmese at home and abroad, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations and business elites to address the Rakhine issue. She also invited UN agencies, financial institutions, international NGOs and cooperating countries to help resolve ethnic violence in Myanmar. She promised that the government is committed to the restoration of peace and stability and the rule of law throughout the country.

The constructive assistance, offered by the international community to bolster the NLD government's endeavors to safeguard stability and socio-economic growth, is conducive to Myanmar's peaceful development.

China is aware of the complexity of the Rakhine ethnic and religious conflict and shows sympathy for the large number of Rohinya Muslims fleeing their homes. China has provided humanitarian aid to Rakhine State and assisted Bangladesh in the resettlement of refugees.

Different ethnic groups and distinctive cultures coexist in Myanmar, which calls for a harmonious, united and diversified nation. The Myanmar government should develop a peaceful and inclusive country where all ethnic communities enjoy equal rights in politics, language, culture, religion, traditions and customs.

Therefore, Myanmar authorities must perform a far-sighted balancing act between nationalist forces within the country while managing complicated international relations - a hefty burden for a government that has ruled Myanmar for only about 18 months.

The Myanmar government has discussed with regional ethnic armed groups in terms of building trust, reaching a cease-fire and enhancing education, sanitation and drug-control efforts. The NLD government delivered a report on September 27 to reveal the progress made in ethnic reconciliation in the Buddhist-majority country. However, the conflagration between the Buddhists and ethnic minorities, especially Rohinya Muslims, has been a longstanding problem since Myanmar became independent in 1948. Therefore, it will take time for the government to achieve ethnic reconciliation and religious harmony in the country.

China has played an active role in mediating negotiations among the NLD government, military and regional ethnic armies by championing peace talks and economic cooperation, and has been promoting the settlement of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China supports efforts by the Myanmar government to resolve the Rakhine issue and is ramping up cooperation between the two countries.

Myanmar lags far behind other ASEAN member states because of its isolation from the outside world for nearly 50 years. Myanmar now ranks at 170 among 190 economies for its business environment, according to Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All by the World Bank.

Since the NLD took power last year, Myanmar has suffered high trade deficits and inflation, and its domestic buying power has declined. In addition, some developed countries made promises to assist Myanmar, but only a few have kept and fulfilled them.

Against this backdrop, the NLD government released a 12-point economic policy, proposed economic growth strategies and prioritized sectors within the country. The new administration has beefed up efforts to attract foreign investment, boost foreign trade and employment.

China and Myanmar have built common ground for cooperation. As Myanmar's largest trading partner and investor, China has invested in a number of projects in Myanmar, providing many job opportunities for Myanmese and benefiting its ties with Myanmar.

The NLD government shows willingness to join the Beijing-proposed Belt and Road initiative. Economic cooperation will lead the development of China-Myanmar relations and help the two nations achieve sound growth and prosperity.

The author is a professor at the Center for China's Neighbor Diplomacy Studies & School of International Studies, deputy director of Institute of the Belt and Road Initiatives & Institute of South Asia and Southeast Asia Studies, Yunnan University.


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