Sources in the Rakhine state government reported that at least one hundred military personnel arrived in the state on Thursday, August 10, as part of a push to improve the security situation in the region. Military officials stated the recently deployed troops are ready to carry out additional counterinsurgency operations if necessary.
The deployment of additional troops to Rakhine State comes as tensions are rising between the Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities. It is reported that there have been killings and disappearances of members from both communities over the last few months. Government officials have blamed the recent incidents on Rohingya militants allegedly linked to the group which carried out a deadly attack on security forces in October 2016.
The Rohingya people are a group of more than 1 million Muslims who primarily live in western Myanmar's Rakhine state. 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, the destruction of over 1000 homes, and the killing of 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 United Nations has established a fact-finding mission to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the military during the counteroffensive.
Individuals present in Myanmar are advised to remain vigilant and to adhere by all instructions issued by authorities.
Many Western governments and Myanmar authorities advise travelers against all but essential travel to Rakhine state, except the southern townships of Kyaukpyu, Ramree, Munaung, Toungup, Thandwe (including the tourist resort of Ngapali), and Gwa. Individuals present in western Myanmar should avoid nonessential travel to the region bordering Bangladesh.
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