Country Profile

Myanmar

Summary

Conflict in Myanmar is longstanding in a country with rich religious traditions and an influential religious establishment. Identities have always been closely tied to the Buddhist faith, which is seen in the most visual conflict in Rakhine State, where the Rohingya Muslim population has seen a humanitarian situation develop. There is growing pressure on Myanmar, which has seen a period of hope replaced with a spell of caution, for the country to acknowledge and address the situation.

1Myanmar is a country with rich religious traditions and a large and influential religious establishment. Core national and other identities are quite tightly bound to religious beliefs and histories.

2The Rohingya conflict is distinctive and of long standing and can be seen both as a test or trial for Myanmar in terms of human rights and civic standards and identity.

3There are a number of tracks when looking towards solutions to the interreligious conflicts in Myanmar, including urgent efforts needed by all leaders and respected political figures.

Situation Report

Myanmar is at a crossroads. Some paths lead towards rekindled hope for a beautiful country, well endowed with rich human and natural resources. One of the world's poorest nations today, after years of self-imposed isolation and harsh autocratic rule, Myanmar has far to go to catch up, but recent political and economic reforms point in positive directions. Myanmar in the 1940s was the region's wealthiest nation and it has the endowments to take that direction again. Other paths, however, point in dangerous directions, towards religious extremism, ethno/religious conflicts, weak human development, and economic stagnation. Whatever the path taken, the nation faces dangers and challenges, above all because institutions and governance are weak and there will inevitably be the conflicts that go with development and managing natural resources. Sharp tensions, especially in the western Rakhine state but also across the nation and the still to be resolved conflicts along the borders spill over into international relations in a complex and rather volatile region.

It is a situation that calls for active efforts to address both the proximate and root causes of the full spate of current conflicts. That means taking their religious dimensions seriously.