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ICC NOTE: Burmese soldiers entered into a conflict with Rakhine State rebel armies as the ethnic border states continue to oppose the central government. Historically the relationship between the central government and the outlying autonomous states has been volatile and inhumane. For decades the military junta targeted ethnic religious minorities in an attempt to eliminate them from Myanmar. Ethnic Christian minorities in the east have been discriminated against, raped, tortured, and killed for both their faith and culture. Rohingya Muslims have faced similar threats by the government leading to many being placed in camps that have been considered to be some of the worst in the world. It is not surprising to see armed conflict continue as the military continues to pursue its dastardly deeds even though the government has essentially been handed over. 

4/20/2016 Rakhine State, Myanmar (Asia News) – At least 20 Burmese soldiers and an army commander have died in three days of protracted fighting in Rakhine State, in the west of the country. This is according to Arakan Army (AA) spokesman, Khine Thukha, one of several armed rebel groups still fighting the central government. The national army was reportedly ambushed near the town Ponagyun and an AA base in Rathedaung.

“We are fighting because the 232nd infantry led by Commander Myo Min Tun entered our area,” said the spokesman, adding that “the commander and 20 of his soldiers were killed, while some AA men were wounded, but none killed.” The Burmese army has not confirmed the victims nor commented on the affair.

Often violence in the Rakhine State has religious roots rather than political. An anti-Muslim sentiment that in 2012 led to clashes in the streets, with hundreds of casualties and the flight of tens of thousands of Rohingya (Muslim minority not recognized by Myanmar) has been widespread in recent years.

Nevertheless, Thukka highlights the political problems that hinder his groups’ abandonment of weapons: “For a long time we have been asking for a solution to political issues in a political way, but the government army has taken root. If we cannot get to the bottom of problems through dialogue, we will never have peace or ethnic unity. ”

The achievement of peace with all minorities is a priority for the new democratic government of the National League for Democracy, in power since April 1. Its leader Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly said she wants to resume peace talks with the armed groups who were excluded from the last ceasefire wanted by the military junta in October (including AA). The new Foreign Minister also called for an amendment of the Constitution and the formation of a federal union among all states of Myanmar.

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