Myanmar’s military coup prolongs the suffering of Rohingya in Rakhine State | Rohingya News

Bangkok, Thailand – In early August, military officials assigned to Rakhine State by Myanmar military generals gathered leaders of the main Muslim Rohingya community in Buthidaung for a meeting on the Mayu River.

Officials issued a warning: Rohingya villagers should cut off any contact with the Arakan Army (AA), an armed insurgent group fighting for the right to self-determination for ethnic minorities in the northwest of the country.

A Rohingya town chief in Buthidaung told Al Jazeera: “We are currently participating in the management of the AA… because AA acts with equality and the law for all of us,” he added, adding that the Rohingya have so far ignored the military. Party’s request.

Fearing that the political crisis triggered by the military coup on February 1 may worsen to civil war, As the turbulent northwestern states began a ceasefire Faltering, The country’s oppressed Rohingya minority once again looked vulnerable.

In November last year, Rohingya who tried to leave Rakhine State were arrested on a large scale. Their freedom of movement was severely restricted. Military officials threatened the danger of cooperating with the rebel Rakhine Army.

“Our town is stable at the moment, but we don’t know when we will start fighting, so we always live together in fear,” said a 47-year-old Rohingya resident in Buthidaung town, who asked to stay out of fear of being arrested. anonymous.

For a long time, it has been illegal for Rohingya to travel abroad, and those who violate the regulations face the risk of two years in prison.But the deteriorating situation means More people are trying.

At the end of November, the Burmese Navy seized a ship from Maung Taw to Malaysia near Sittwe and arrested more than 200 Rohingya on board, including 33 children.

Earlier that month, 55 Rohingya were arrested after arriving in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

The military leadership seems to be imposing tougher punishments. Local media reported on December 15 that a court sentenced Rohingya arrested near Sittwe to five years’ imprisonment instead of two years.

In 2017, the Myanmar military brutally suppressed Rohingya civilians. According to reports, at least 700,000 people fled to neighboring Bangladesh. Kill, Torture, rape and arson. Most stay there, Trying to survive in the largest refugee camp in the world.

Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was the country’s de facto leader at the time. He ignored calls from human rights organizations and the international community to condemn violence, and even Defensive The military opposes the International Court of Justice (ICJ) allegations of genocide.

However, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government was overthrown in a coup in February, there was growing concern that the situation of the Rohingya might deteriorate again.

‘We are really scared’

AA, mainly representing Rakhine Buddhists, hopes that the Northwestern countries will have greater political autonomy.

The relationship between the Rakhine and Rohingya communities has historically been tense, often occurring Outbreak of inter-ethnic violence.

Some civilians in Rakhine State involved attacks on Rohingya villages in the 2017 crackdown. The AA referred to a Rohingya armed group as a “barbaric Bengali Muslim terrorist” and used a common derogatory term to imply Rohingya. People are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

After two years of brutal civil war, nearly 90,000 people were displaced and hundreds of civilians were killed. In November 2020, the AA reached a disturbing ceasefire agreement with the military.

In March last year, the military removed AA from its ““terrorism”‘List, but the AA has now promised to establish a government that includes Rohingya, and recent reports of skirmishes have raised questions about how long the armistice will last.

Another administrative staff member of Jiaodao Township said that the armed military authorities had summoned administrative staff from six Rohingya villages in September.

He said that the officials did not explicitly threaten them or explain the consequences of their cooperation with the AA, but the fact that they are heavily armed means that the experience is daunting.

“Then they said,’Don’t cooperate with the AA to solve any problems.’ We were really scared at the time because they had weapons. We couldn’t tell them too much. They repeatedly said not to cooperate with AA,” he recalled.

Unexploded ordinance in Rathedaung township lying on dry palm grass and mud after the new battle between the Burmese army and the Rakhine army in Rakhine State Fighting broke out between the AA and the military in 2018, but the Rohingya in the state have suffered years of discrimination and abuse [File: AFP]

Like the Buthidaung administrator, he said the AA has been helping the Rohingya and treating them fairly. But he also pointed out that the AA has been able to quietly consolidate its territory and expand its administrative control over Rakhine State due to the distraction of the military by the national uprising against their rule.

Although the major urban areas are still under military control, most of the rural areas are under the management of the AA, and armed groups also have some influence over the state capital Sittwe. The most recent fighting has focused on Maungdu near the border.

“Currently, members of the military government committee dare not come to our village,” the administrator said, because it is under the control of the AA.

AA spokesperson Khaing Thu Kha said he was aware of the military’s intimidation attempts and accused the military of trying to control the population through “oppressive mechanisms.”

“Not only Muslims, but all people in Rakhine State are still threatened by the Myanmar military every day. We do our best to provide security, justice and harmony for all people in Rakhine State,” he told Al Jazeera.

Since the coup, Rakhine people have also been inspected by more and more travel checkpoints, and some have been arrested or questioned for allegedly supporting anti-military resistance organizations.

‘Many restrictions’

After the 2017 crackdown, about 600,000 Rohingya remained in Rakhine State, and more than 100,000 of them were confined to camps for displaced persons known as open-air prisons. Human Rights Watch described these camps as “dirty and abuse”, with “serious restrictions” on movement, education, and medical care.

Amnesty International described the treatment of Rohingya in Rakhine State as apartheid, and severe restrictions continue even under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government.

Recently, however, they have become more onerous.

Although Rohingya can usually travel with the permission of the village chief (and sometimes Rohingya), the 47-year-old Buthidaung town resident confirmed to Al Jazeera that as of late November, Rohingya must obtain local military officials Only with permission to travel to the neighboring Maung Thu town.

The military claims that Rohingya travel poses a threat to security and the rule of law.

However, the administrator stated that the Rohingya were forced to pay 10,000 kyats (approximately US$5.65) to Maung Taw. For people living on the edge of poverty, this is a prohibitive expense. People with business interests may need to go to hospitals with better facilities.

“If we have to go to Sittwe due to health problems, there will be many restrictions and a lot of time. First, we have to go to the Buthidaung immigration office, and then we have to go to the district immigration office in Maungdaw. If the district office refuses us, we cannot go. ,” he said, adding that it may take up to a month to get approval.

He said that the Rohingya have not been publicly threatened on the streets, but the situation feels unstable and many people are “fearful of traveling” or going out for normal daily activities.

The human rights organization Fortify Rights also confirmed that the military has been tightening control of the Rohingya’s actions and condemned these measures as violating the Interim Order of the International Court of Justice on Myanmar’s measures to protect the Rohingya from genocide.

Fortify Rights argues that by preventing Rohingya from getting jobs and medical care, military generals may “intentionally create living conditions with the aim of causing the physical destruction of a group”, which is a kind of genocide.

For Aung Kyaw Moe, a Rohingya activist living in the United States, these restrictions are “serious violations of human rights.”

Aung Kyaw Moe serves as an advisor to the Ministry of Human Rights of the National Unity Government (NUG), a parallel government established by legislators elected in the 2020 polls and was removed due to the military’s seizure of power.

Although many senior NUG members are from the National League for Democracy, the organization has pledged to carry out reforms that the National League for Democracy has previously refused to consider, saying it will recognize Rohingya citizenship and cooperate with international judicial mechanisms.

Internally displaced Rohingya Muslim women and children gather under a purple umbrella at Thet Kay Pyin camp in Sittwe, Rakhine StateLast year, internally displaced Rohingya women and children gathered at Thet Kay Pyin camp in Sittwe.Communities are facing stricter rules of action, some rights groups call this tantamount to genocide [File: AFP]

However, despite the official positions of NUG and AA, the situation in Rakhine State is still complicated, and many people still do not accept the Rohingya.

Rakhine State political analyst Kyaw Lynn stated that many Rakhine State are angry at NUG’s commitment to Rohingya citizenship.

“For NUG, they seem to be at the cost of the support of the Rohingya Declaration by the people of Rakhine State. Or they think it is better to get international recognition than Rakhine State recognition,” he said.

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