Arakan State

Ethnic Groups Face Off Against the Burma Army

Conflict between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army escalated in recent years, with the Burma Army carrying out random executions, torture, arrests, and kidnappings against civilians. The Arakan Army, which has an estimated 10,000 soldiers and is well-trained in guerrilla warfare and equipped with Chinese military-grade weaponry, has in turn inflicted casualties against Burmese forces.

Civilians are caught in the middle of the conflicts and pay a price as well; in 2019 alone, 39,000 people have been displaced by the fighting. Due to the Burma governments strict policy against allowing NGOs and outside aid into the area, these new IDPs have little access to food, medical care, and other basic needs. The increased pressure from the Burma Army has also taken a toll on daily life. The military has increased raids on villages and detainment of men and youth who they suspect are associated with the Arakan Army. Families of Arakan Army members are especially at risk for direct abuse from the Burma Army.

On 17 Sept. 2019, the Burma Army and Arakan Army met for peace talks with no real results. Attacks continue and show no sign of stopping anytime soon.


In August 2017, the Burma Army launched a series of clearance operations against the Rohingya in Arakan State which were later determined to meet the U.N.s definition of genocide. Two years later, life in Arakan State remains precarious due to ongoing conflicts between the Burma Army and ethnic groups in the state.

Accounts from Rohingya survivors attracted international attention as each survivor gave testimony of the horrific human rights violations happening against their people. These violations included the burning of villages and fields, the brutal murdering of civilians of all ages, and the gang rape of women and girls. Over 700,000 Rohingya fled to southern Bangladesh and etched out new lives inside refugee camps.

Bangladesh did a commendable job of caring for these desperate people when they first arrived on their border. However, it has proven difficult to sustain the same level of care over two years; the influx of nearly a million people into an already impoverished area, which also displaced thousands of the local population, has begun to breed hostility towards the refugees. There have been several attempts to begin repatriation but Burma has consistently failed to provide plausible guarantees of security for returnees. The Rohingya remain a people in limbo, unrecognized in their own country and dependent on billions of dollars of international aid in the Bangladesh camps.