Rakhine State, also called Arakan, has again been the theatre of armed conflict less than two years after the military's brutal campaign against the Rohingya, which led to the exodus of more than 750,000 people and acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide. More than 500,000 Rohingya are presently still in Rakhine State, scattered in villages and are frequently caught to be a victim of the armed conflict between Arakanese rebel fighters and the Myanmar military. The same applies to southern Chin State where Chin civilians are trapped in combat zones. This time, the renewed violence started when in January 2019 police stations were attacked by the Arakan Army (AA) and marked a new chapter in Myanmar's never ending armed conflicts between ethnic rebel groups and Tatmadaw, the Myanmar military forces.
The Arakan Army (AA), established in 2009, is an ethnic Rakhine religiously Buddhist armed group. AA is part of the Northern Alliance together with Shan ethnic armed groups and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and was, until 2019, based in Laiza, the headquarters of KIA in Kachin along the Chinese border, where it was training and fighting against government troops alongside KIA. When attacks started in Chin and Rakhine State in 2019, the gravity point of AA shifted from Kachin to Rakhine where they benefit of widespread popular support. With more than 20,000 soldiers, AA was one of the largest armed ethnic groups actively fighting the Myanmar military forces before the coup of February 2021
The ongoing conflict in Rakhine has so far been tightly quarantined from the international community and journalists. An unprecedented government-imposed internet blackout since June 2019 has rendered available information rare and hampered humanitarian assistance due to access and communication restrictions. This is a practice that has been widely applied to all ethnic minorities and other conflict zones ever since the military coup.
Amid escalating clashes between AA and the armed forces and the alleged military abuses against the population, the number of civilian internally displaced persons (IDP) is more than 100,000 all over the region with concentrations in Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Minbya and Ponnagyun townships. With very limited humanitarian access, squalid camp conditions and the proximity of combat activities, often only few kilometres from the camps, the IDPs but also the general population gets more and more entangled in a very precarious situation with no solution in sight. During the first months of 2020 the conflict has substantially intensified with daily clashes, shelling, civilian casualties, and a more than doubling numbers of displaced persons.
Two years after Myanmar's military brutal campaign against the Rohingya, which led to the exodus of more than 750,000 people and sustained accusations of genocide, an important number estimated between 500 and 700,000 stayed behind in Rakhine, mainly concentrated around Sittwe and other townships in central and southern Rakhine. Their situation is becoming worse since humanitarian aid is severely restricted, a new ethnic conflict has erupted in Rakhine. The attention of aid agencies has been mainly focusing on the Rohingya that fled to Bangladesh in 2017. Their movements are further severely restricted allowing them to circulate only within the camps and surrounding Rohingya villages.

A Deepening Conflict

A New Ethnic Frontline in Rakhine

Rohingya Left in Rakhine