Arakan (Rakhine State): A Land in Conflict on Myanmar’s Western Frontier

Arakan, the present-day Rakhine State,1 represents the post-colonial failures of Myanmar in microcosm: ethnic conflict,2 political impasse, militarisation, economic neglect and the marginalisation of local peoples. During the past decade, many of these challenges have gathered a new intensity, accentuating a Buddhist-Muslim divide and resulting in one of the greatest refugee crises in the modern world. A land of undoubted human and natural resource potential, Arakan has become one of the poorest territories in the country today.

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Arakan Before 1000 AD

By Aman Ullah

The earliest name of Arakan was ‘Kala Mukha’ (Land of the Black Faces) writes Noel Francis Singer in his book ‘Vaishali and the Indianization of Arakan’. It was inhabited by these dark brown-colored Indians who had much in common with the people (today’s Bangladeshis, or more particularly Chittagonians) living on the north-western side of the Naaf River, along the adjoining coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal. The resemblance was not limited to physical features like skin color, shape of head and nose alone, but also in shared culture and beliefs.
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