Is Myanmar violence just the beginning?

After 18 months of mainly positive news for Myanmar, the past couple of weeks brought everyone back to earth with a thud.

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    After 18 months of mainly positive news for Myanmar, the past couple of weeks brought everyone back to earth with a thud.

    The international community had been scrambling to praise the political reforms undertaken by the partly civilian government since the election at the end of 2010.

    World leaders had been practically tripping over themselves to shake the hand of freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For more than a year, Myanmar has enjoyed something a coming out party. Now, the nation is waking up to a hangover, and it may be a long one.

    We were reminded that, for the past year, a war has been fought in the north of the country that shows no sign of stopping. There were church services held in Kachin State to mark one year since a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and soldiers from the Myanmar Army was broken.

    The KIA first began fighting for independence, now they fight for greater autonomy. Some within the rebel army believe government forces won't stop fighting until all the Kachin people are wiped out. That may not be true, but the fact that some senior people believe and are saying it, shows a deep lack of trust. The Kachin are predominantly Christian in a mainly Buddhist country.

    Then there's the situation in Rakhine State, in the northwest, which has provided an example of humanity at its worst, with rape, murder, mutilation, revenge killings, arson, racial and religious abuse taking place.

    The problems allegedly started when a group of Muslim Rohingya men raped and murdered a Buddhist woman a heinous and unforgivable crime. What seems to have happened since is the incident, in many people's eyes, is that all Rohingya are now guilty by association.

    The Rohingya are stateless and aren't counted among the country's ethnic minority groups. Many in Myanmar view them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, a country where they're also not wanted.

    Some of the vitriolic comments coming from people in social media lately have unearthed intolerance inside Myanmar that could spell more trouble in the future.


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