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Sunday, June 13, 2021

The deepening crisis: A lifetime of displacement, persecution, and violence

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The ethnic minorities in Myanmar fear a resurgence of violence following the recent military coup.

The recent military coup in Myanmar has shaken the country, striking a huge relapse of the memories of crippling isolation that it underwent under direct military rule for years. The fear being most persistent amongst the persecuted ethnic minorities of the country. 

Reportedly UN experts have said that Senior General Min Aung, the man who seized power in Myanmar, should be investigated for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. An ethnic Arakanese mother who fled Tatmadaw and the Arakan military groups in 2019 worries if she will be taken back to the ‘past military era’.

Millions of people fled the country following the reckless treatment by Tatmadaw in its regime that continued from 1962 to 2011, including torture, sexual violence, extrajudicial killing, and forced recruitment.

It was in 2011 when Myanmar began shifting towards semi-civilian rule. In 2015, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party the National League for Democracy (NLD) had scored a landslide victory making her the de facto leader of Myanmar. Considering the constitution as drafted by the military in 2008, Aung San Suu Kyi had to share her civilian power with Tatmadaw. However, countries across the globe continued to reaffirm their faith in the global icon’s perseverance and determined fight for human rights. 

However, Myanmar to its despair, experienced severe ethnic cleansing when Tatmadaw launched ‘clearance operations’ against ethnic minorities- Rohingyas of Rakhine State. The ruthless operation killed around 6,700  people, while 7,40,000 fled the country seeking refuge in Bangladesh. UN experts had called this a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.

In 2018, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission report recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military generals including Min Aung Haing for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Rakhine, Kachin, and Shan states of Myanmar. The report also explained that the ‘military necessity‘ cannot justify murdering people, carrying out sexual violence, gang-raping women, abusing the children and setting entire villages on fire.

Adding further, the report also stated that Tatmadaw’s disregard for human lives, integrity, freedom, and international law in general, should be a major cause of concern for the whole population.

Presently the UN has considered more than 300,000 civilians to be displaced within the country. This includes 129,000 Rohingyas who have been forced to camp in the state of Rakhine since 2012.

How many years more? Is a question haunting the lives of thousands of minorities in Myanmar, not for months or years, but almost half a century for now.

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