Suspected insurgents allegedly killed six members of a Buddhist ethnic minority in the troubled western state of Rakhine on Thursday, August 3. Authorities have accused Muslim Rohingya “extremists” for the killings.
Troops located in the northeast of Rakhine state were put on high alert in late June 2017 following reports of attacks on local villagers by Rohingya insurgents. Nearly 200 Rakhine Buddhist villagers reportedly fled the area as a consequence. Border guards in neighboring Bangladesh have also been put on alert. These reports of violence, however, remain unconfirmed due to a media blackout imposed by the army since October 2016.
The Rohingya people are a group of more than 1 million Muslims who primarily live in Rakhine. Armed groups of Rohingyas simultaneously raided several border checkpoints in Rakhine state at the Bangladeshi border on October 9, 2016, injuring a dozen Myanmar soldiers. Retaliatory attacks took place in the following days as the military deployed troops to the area and imposed a curfew.
In a bid to demonstrate its ability to handle the situation, the military carried out counterinsurgency operations for four months, ending in mid-February 2017. Human rights groups accused the army of committing crimes against humanity, and possibly ethnic cleansing, during their crackdown operations, including rape, torture, burning down over 1000 homes, and killing an unknown number of civilians, possibly over 1000. This violent crackdown caused an estimated 70,000 Rohingyas to flee across the border to Bangladesh, while at least 20,000 were internally displaced. The UN has established a fact-finding mission to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the military during the counter-offensive.
Individuals present in Myanmar are advised to remain vigilant and to adhere by all instructions issued by authorities.
As a precautionary measure, many Western governments and Myanmar authorities advise travelers against all but essential travel to Rakhine state, with the exception of the southern townships of Kyaukpyu, Ramree, Munaung, Toungup, Thandwe (including the tourist resort of Ngapali), and Gwa. Individuals present in western Myanmar should also avoid nonessential travel to areas along the border with Bangladesh.