Ma Yee Yee Soe from Min Phoo village killed during the Tatmadaw’s gunfire in March and her mother who feel sad after her death.

Hmat Kyi Thar (Law) | DMG

The fierce hostility between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army in Arakan State that intensified early this year has gradually grown from Paletwa in Chin State, Kyauktaw, Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Mrauk-U, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Minbya and Ann, to Myebon.

Because of violations of human rights accompanied by the war in the conflict-ridden area; civilians have been facing arbitrary arrests and detention, persecution, brutal killing, seizure of personal properties and forced labour that raises people’s concerns daily.

The root cause of the armed confrontation between the Tatmadaw and the AA is the different intention of the two groups. The Arakan Army struggles for protecting the interest of Arakanese people and self-determination while the Tatmadaw seeks sustainability of national sovereignty and protecting the interest of the country.

In the eyes of the Arakan Army, the Tatmadaw and the successive governments are oppressing Arakanese people. Meanwhile, the Tatmadaw sees the country as unstable due to the rebellion of Arakanese people. Their vision foments aggressive hostility in the region even during the rainy season although each group knows what they want. However, both sides don’t attempt to negotiate and people become victims of their armed confrontations.

Military troops and policemen positioned in the village. Photo: Thabawa Nadi

It’s a known fact that innocent people suffer when wars break out. What needs to be done is to minimize the negative biproducts of armed confrontations that affect innocent bystanders and drastically reduce the number of innocent fatalities.  It needs to follow rule of law and respect human rights.

During an armed conflict, people become refugees. As refugees, they must endure atrocious experiences, now, during the rainy season refugees are going through a living hell that is beyond the pale.

Since the war zone has been widened, the number of refugees has increased. They are in dire need of help and people from regions away from the conflict zones have to struggle to provide relief. At the moment, food becomes scarcer, trading is in decline and the economy is on a downward spiral.

Both sides claim that they are fighting for the common people. Yet, they forget to protect local residents from the risks of war. Thus, both armed organizations need to follow the rules that take into account the rights of people so that they can win the hearts and minds of the people. People cannot prevent war, but they should at least be granted clemency.

An unexploded artillery shell landed near Min Phoo village in March.

Both sides need to have special consideration for the rule of law when it comes innocent civilians. If soldiers in the field have a complete lack of human compassion for people that have nothing whatsoever to do with their struggle, soldiers will be seen as heartless murderers that have zero regard for human life. This kind of amoral attitude goes against what basic human rights is all about and warrants criminal behavior that must be rectified in a court of law.

If civilians are killed or injured during cross-fires is not a criminal act. If armies fail to follow international standards when they hold prisoners of war, it is a criminal act. Failing to follow the international rules damages the dignity of an organization and credibility becomes suspect.

Members of armed groups are prohibited to carry out acts such as arbitrary arrests, detentions, persecution or indiscriminately shooting civilians without probable cause. Setting landmines on public transportation routes, destroying publicly owned property, looting and pillaging, torture, rape, enforced prostitution, forced labour also constitute criminal acts. Perpetrators who commit these violations should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law by senior officers or officials.  

Needless to say, leaders of armies must bear the responsibility for any subordinate soldiers that breach human rights, it their job as a leader, if they’re remiss in their duties then they must be held accountable as well. Now in the information age, data is available online at the snap of a finger, so it is easy to find the truth about situations that occur yet much information or evidence can be doctored for the advantage of an opposing side and then circulated as disinformation. So legal officials must be careful when reviewing evidence connected to any misdeeds during wartime.  It is difficult to cover up all incidents that happen to civilians due to armed confrontation. That is why investigating an issue between members of armed organizations and civilians punctually is an imperative obligation for respective authorities for the sake of the rule of law. 

A pregnant woman receives treatment at Sittwe hospital for bullet wound.

Todays, government military force and non-state armies cannot do what they please. They cannot behave as they did in previous decades. If an armed group commits any kind of atrocities that go against international human rights standards, it would be a loss of face among the international community, even if offences were not tried in a court of law. An armed group needs to put great stress on its prestige and dignity, in spite of showing little regard for common people who just want to live in peace.

In conclusion, political discussion is a key solution to restore peace and stability in Arakan State. If both sides cannot negotiate, they should at least reduce the impact of war on civilians. If they have to resort to physical confronts, they need to follow the rule of law and justice so as to build stable and developed country.


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