Myanmar Violence Highlights That Reform Must Also Address Ethnic Divisions

Myanmar Violence Highlights That Reform Must Also Address Ethnic Divisions

Fighting between Muslim and Buddhist mobs broke out in Myanmar’s coastal state of Rakhine over the weekend, with the violence between minority Rohingya Muslims and majority Rakhine Buddhists set off by the rape and murder of an ethnic Rakhine woman and the revenge attacks that followed.

The unrest, which included arson, rioting and the killing of about 25 people, reveals some of the deep-rooted ethnic and religious tensions in the country, which has only recently begun to open up after decades of isolation and military rule.

Jason Abbott, Aung San Suu Kyi Endowed Chair at the University of Louisville’s Center for Asian Democracy, told Trend Lines that the recent violence in Rakhine state should be seen against a backdrop of an “alarming increase in nationalistic and anti-Muslim comments on postings on social media sites.” He noted that incidents of violence against Muslims had been reported shortly after Myanmar’s parliamentary by-elections in April.

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