Natural Resources and Ethnic Conflict: A Geo-strategic Understanding of the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar

AuthorKunal Debnath,Souvik Chatterjee,Afnan Bint Afzal
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Jadavpur Journal of
International Relations
26(2) 186 –207, 2022
© 2022 Jadavpur University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/09735984221120309
Natural Resources
and Ethnic Conflict:
A Geo-strategic
of the Rohingya Crisis
in Myanmar
Kunal Debnath1, Souvik Chatterjee2 and
Afnan Bint Afzal1
Since the enactment of the 1982 Burmese Citizenship Law, the
Rohingya Muslims have been stateless, and they are attempting to
become Burmese citizens. In Myanmar, ethnic identity continues to
be the most politically significant marker stratified by government
policy. Despite Myanmar’s official recognition of 135 minority groups,
ethnic identities are fixed in exclusionary terms like Buddhist or non-
Buddhist, Bamar or non-Bamar. Ethnicity and religion, therefore, have
played a significant role in the formation of Myanmar’s national identity,
that systematically excludes the Rohingyas. Hence, religion and ethnic
identities are often contemplated as the major reason for the Rohingya
crisis. However, contrary to the popular perception, this article argues
2Department of International Relations, Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi,
Jharkhand, India
Corresponding author:
Kunal Debnath, Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, 56A, B. T.
Road, Kolkata, West Bengal 700050, India.
1Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, West Bengal,
Debnath et al. 187
that, along with the ethnic and religious aspects of the Rohingya conflict,
the geo-strategic and economic aspects of the conflict must also be
addressed with seriousness, as the conflict has occurred under a variety
of political and economic conditions. It investigates the role of resource
geo-economics of the Myanmar government and military forces in the
recent conflict. Furthermore, this article examines China’s and India’s
vested geo-strategic and economic interests in Rakhine. Findings
from the research imply that the persecution and displacement of the
Rohingyas may be linked to the resources and geo-strategic factors
present in Rakhine.
The Rohingyas, state-sponsored terrorism, 1982 Burmese citizenship
law, military junta, geo-strategy, geo-economics, resource politics,
Myanmar, India, China
Often, the ethno-religious differences between the majority Buddhists
and the minority Rohingya Muslims are considered as the pivotal factor
of the Rohingyas’ persecution in Myanmar (erstwhile Burma). To
illustrate the ethnic and religious identities of the Rohingya Muslims,
Rahman (2015: 288–295) argues that the cultural and societal principles
of the Rohingyas have generated a separate stand of them from the rest
of the Buddhist-dominated Myanmar. Consequently, Rahman (2015:
288–295) specifies that it forms the political factors of conflict and
asserted that the political authority of Myanmar is patronizing the
Buddhist natives against the Muslim Rohingyas because of the ethno-
religious differences among the two races. To a greater extent, the
blooming of nationalism among the Buddhists and its influence in the
articulation of Myanmar government’s anti-Muslim policies are notable
causes of Rohingyas’ persecution. The direct involvement of the
Government of Myanmar and the formulation of anti-Muslimism
policies designated a state-sponsored campaign against the Rohingyas as
stated by Lei (2019). Denial of citizenship, forced displacement, and
conflict arising from the discrimination of the Rohingyas occurred as the
Myanmar state perceived them as a security threat. This ethnic security
forms a significant factor of the Rohingya issue other than the political
factors involved in it (Ware and Laoutides 2018). It is often argued that

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