The atrocities against and the privations of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar are well documented. Much less awareness exists about the reasons why Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, has been able to get away with ethnic cleansing in an ostensibly democratising Buddhist state. The military has used the attacks of an insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, as a pretext for carrying out a brutal campaign of eviction, repressions and executions. This anti-Rohingya campaign is fairly popular among Myanmar’s population, which further explains why the civilian government de facto led by Aung San Suu Kyi has no control over the Tatmadaw. Actually, at present there is no state or international organisation that can realistically rein in Myanmar’s military. China and India have contentious relations with their own Muslim minorities and strategic and economic interests in Myanmar. They will support its regime. Neighbouring states have only modest influence over Burmese politics, as do international organisations. Yet the latter still represent whatever hope there is of holding the regime and its generals accountable.
2. The domestic context
2.1 The Tatmadaw
2.2 Suu Kyi and the people
3. The external political environment
Conclusion: What Can Be Done?