Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Target aid to end Myanmar's ethnic violence

To succeed in ending the conflict, outside powers must put people's interest before their own

Over the past year, enthusiasm for Myanmar's democratisation process has gone from cautious optimism to genuine concern. This week, concern turned to horror.

In a report released yesterday, Human Rights Watch accused the government of being complicit in crimes against Muslims in the state of Rakhine. According to the study, community leaders and Buddhist monks are engaging in "coordinated attacks" on Muslims, backed by state security forces. Meanwhile, a video obtained by the BBC showed Burmese officers standing by while a Buddhist mob destroys a Muslim gold shop and sets fire to houses.

The video was reportedly filmed last month in the central city of Meiktila. Dozens of Muslims were killed in the violence.

Attacks against minorities - Rohingya Muslims and other groups in Myanmar - have been spiralling across the country since March last year. And yet, there has been remarkably little condemnation from outside powers; US President Barack Obama visited the country in November, his first visit overseas since re-election, and praised the country's reforms while failing to condemn the ethnic attacks.

Cynics always warned that while the swift transition from a military junta to democratic state was remarkable, it would take more than promises to move a long-cloistered military state into the global fold. Now it seems those warnings were prescient. With luck the recent focus, from videos to watchdog reports, will shed light on one of the world's worst examples of ethnic carnage.

Again there is reason to be pessimistic. Observers often blame business and political interests for the failings of western countries to publicly criticise Myanmar's violence; indeed, natural resource exploitation is a principal reason for the global interest in the country.

But the situation in Myanmar does not bode well for a country that respects human dignity and modern values. Widespread instability would not help foreign investment, which is why continuing communal tensions must not be tolerated and authorities have to assume more responsibility to end the violence.

Outside investment and allocation of aid can be targeted in ways that could help reduce the bloodshed. Vetting aid recipients, assisting with political and security sector reforms, and encouraging national dialogue can all help Myanmar escape this cycle of violence.

It is not too late to avert disaster. But to succeed countries partnering with Myanmar must put that country's long-term interests ahead of their own.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

On our sixth birthday, today’s news told visually

Today in print, we are doing something different: we use only photos, graphics, illustrations and headlines to capture the news in a one-off collector’s edition.

 Rolling out the structure for the set. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Star Wars: Episode VII evidence in Abu Dhabi desert

After more than a week of speculation, The National has what are believed to be the first photos of a Star Wars shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

 Amir Khan, during a workout at the Gloves Community Centre on March 24, 2014 in Bolton, England, says his fight will be the real main event in Las Vegas on May 3. Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Amir Khan says bout with Luis Collazo ‘will steal the show’ in Las Vegas on May 3

British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan says his fight with Luis Collazo will be the main attraction on same fight card led by Floyd Mayweather Jr and Marcos Maidana, writes Omar Al Raisi.

 Hassan Abdullah, who goes by the name Abu Mahmoud, an Emirati fisherman, poses for a portrait at the Al Rughayalat Port. Abu Mahmoud was born and raised in Fujairah city and has been working as a fisherman since 1968. “I’m a shark man”, he says, “I was born in the sea.” Silvia Razgova / The National

In pictures: Fishing communities in the Northern Emirates

Fishermen in Fujairah and Umm Al Qaiwain worry that new regulations to protect fish stocks are harming their trade. We look at both communities through the lens of our photographers.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

 Al Maryah Island will host the 114-hectare Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

In pictures: Al Maryah Island rises in Abu Dhabi

Al Maryah has been chosen as the site for Abu Dhabi’s first financial free zone, the Abu Dhabi Global Market, and construction activity in the island has been at a fast pace.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National