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Insurgency and Repression in Myanmar

From Communal to State Violence

A Rohingya girl wipes her eyes at a refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh, February 2017. Mohammad Ponir Hossain / Reuters

Since October 9, 2016, 66,000 Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have fled Rakhine State in the country’s west and entered neighboring Bangladesh. They crossed the river separating the two countries on boats or by holding on to plastic containers—these ramshackle vessels and flimsy objects their best hope of reaching safety. The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution. Today, they are not fleeing Rakhine Buddhists, with whom they first clashed in May 2012. They are fleeing their own government. 

When Myanmar’s current leader, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, led her National League for Democracy (NLD) to victory in the November 2015 elections, expectations were high for the country’s first civilian government since the 1960s. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for “her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,” Aung San Suu Kyi declared after the election that the peace process between armed ethnic groups on

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