The region, which is geographically isolated, was the seat of a powerful kingdom (after the 15th cent.), famous for a colossal image of Buddha. At various times under Burmese rule, it finally was absorbed into Burma (now Myanmar) in 1783; it was the first Burmese territory ceded (1826) to the British after the first Anglo-Burmese War. In the 1950s there was a movement for secession from Myanmar, which revived as an Arakanese insurgency in the 21st cent. In 2012 tens of thousands of Arakanese and Rohingyas were displaced as a result of outbreaks of ethnic violence between the two groups, and tensions and sporadic violence have continued since then. In late 2016 an attack on police by a Rohingya insurgent group led to a military crackdown in N Rakhine that continued into early 2017; there were accusations of military atrocities, and many Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. Rohingya insurgent attacks in N Rakhine in Aug., 2017, sparked attacks on Rohingyas by the military and Buddhist mobs; their villages were burned, some 7,000 were believed to have been killed, hundreds of thousands fled to Bangladesh, and others were forced into camps in Rakhine. The military was also accused of indiscriminate attacks in its crackdown since 2019 on the Arakanese insurgency.
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