Myanmar ends state of emergency in troubled Rakhine state

Myanmar lifts state of emergency in conflictual western state of Rakhine, imposed following conflicts between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims in 2012

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers line up before a meeting with party leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar March 28, 2016.

Myanmar President Thein Sein unexpectedly lifted a state of emergency in the conflictual western state of Rakhine on Tuesday just hours before leaving office.

Sein announced this decision in state media on Tuesday, a day before a president from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) will be sworn in at an official handover, after the NLD won the Nov. 8 election by a landslide.

The state of emergency had been imposed after clashes between Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims in 2012.

"It is found from the report by the Rakhine state government that the situation in Rakhine state can no longer pose dangers to the lives and property of the people," said the ordinance signed by Thein Sein.

Although there have been no major clashes in the last two years, the majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims remain stateless and live in apartheid-like conditions.

The Myanmar state prevented Rohingya members from participating as voters or candidates in the November vote. Before the elections, religious tensions were high, with the NLD deciding not to field a single Muslim candidate on its lists of more than 1,100 hopefuls.

That conflict nearly resulted in 200 deaths of Rohingya Muslims and the displacement of 140,000 people. Incidents of violence against Rohingya individuals continued from 2013 to 2015.

Tens of thousands have fled persecution and poverty for neighbouring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Ethnic Rohingya migrants gather outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015. Refugees gathered outside the UNHCR in search of immigration cards. [AP]

They are denied citizenship and have long complained of state-sanctioned discrimination.

Myanmar has denied discriminating against the community. It does not recognise the Rohingya as an ethnic minority and labels them as Bengalis. Most Rohingya reject the term and many families have lived in Rakhine for generations.

The Rohingya are commonly disliked in Myanmar, where they are considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh -including some in Suu Kyi’s party. She risks losing power if she were to bring up the issue for discussion.

The president's order comes a day after Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy faced protests by lawmakers from the ANP -- one of Myanmar's strongest minority parties -- over the NLD decision to appoint a candidate from its own party to be the state's chief minister.

Around 18 ANP lawmakers, many wearing black stickers on their jackets, walked out of the Rakhine regional legislature Monday.

Some 25,000 Rohingya Muslims have left camps for displaced people and returned to the communities, the United Nations said last week, with the number of people in camps down to around 120,000 from 145,000.

TRTWorld and agencies