Greater unity sparkles as Myanmar’s protests continue

Like her former mother and grandmother, Po knows what it’s like to escape an attack from the Myanmar army – escape from a thatched-roof village hut to the jungle, without food or warmth. Flock, but afraid to light a fire so as not to warn the soldiers.

“Not long ago, the military used planes and airstrikes in the Karen area to drop bombs,” said a rescue worker who is a member of the Karen minority in Myanmar and is currently supporting thousands of displaced persons. One Po says. “Now there is no one in the village. They are all in the jungle or digging trenches to hide,” she says by phone from the Thai-Myanmar border.

For decades, Myanmar’s military has fought Karen’s fighters and numerous other ethnic armed groups across the country seeking greater autonomy. Promised, but never realized after independence in 1948. Po sees a faint light of hope. The main reason is that a much larger area of ​​Myanmar’s population is now facing military anger and can be sympathized with it.

“They know that the Burmese army is cruelly treating Karen and other ethnic minority groups …. they now know that the army is also treating them badly.” Poe says he asked to withhold her real name for her protection.

“Now they know we’ve been suffering for over 70 years and we’ve had to escape from our grandparents,” she says. “So we are a little happy.”

A national protest against the military government has broke out since the Myanmar general overthrew the civilian government elected in the coup on February 1. Correspondingly, as the military is officially known, Tatmadaw has launched a brutal crackdown. According to experts, young Myanmar protesters were able to understand the long-standing suffering of ethnic minorities such as Karen and Rohingya, and for the first time, the atrocities of the Myanmar military were revealed.

“The coup … has triggered a change in perspective and thinking, because now the administration is not just killing and burning Rohingya children alive. They actually tell their own people. “We are doing this,” says Steve Gumaer, president of Partners Relief & Development, who has worked in Myanmar for 27 years.

This common sympathy then supports the difficult political push by the remnants of Myanmar’s exiled private leaders to build a new federal government and army with representatives of minorities and their armed wings. Helps Promote-If Successful, Some Analysts Can Help Prevent Brought-out Civil Wars and Failed States in Claimed Frameworks.

“You really need to have something to fill that gap,” says Jason Tower, Country Director of the Institute for International Policy Studies, as increasing pressure on Tatmadaw begins to rock it.

Otherwise, “you have a scenario that could potentially end up in four or five fronts of a national armed group fighting Tamadu from all directions,” he says. “That’s where things get really ugly.”

Rethink the threat

For years, Tatmadaw’s propaganda has promoted Buddhist nationalism among Myanmar’s dominant Burmese ethnic groups, which make up two-thirds of the population, while fostering the division of the minority ethnic groups living in the border areas.

When the military campaigned against a minority of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims in 2017, what the United Nations called “an example of an ethnic cleansing textbook” forced about 800,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. Many Burmese believed in publicity that labeled the Rohingya as a threat.

However, after the coup, experts say the Myanmar people see the military as a real threat. “I’m shocked at how quickly it’s being dismantled, like racism and nationalism,” says Gummer. “I think it’s because the army took off gloves and applied the same tactics. The tactics they apply in ethnic minorities … to their own people …” he says, referring to Burma. .. More than 600 people were killed in the crackdown Approximately 3,000 detainedIncludes private leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials.

In recent weeks, many in the Burmese community have regretted their past indifference and hostility to the Rohingya and other ethnic groups. Meanwhile, members of ethnic minority groups, including Rohingya in Bangladesh refugee camps, join and support anti-coup protesters.

“One of the positive things that will come out is the beginning of a national dialogue on how to treat people from different communities. This has been a long time behind,” said the United States to Myanmar from 2016. Says Scott Marciel, the ambassador. last year.

“You have a Burmese saying:’I’ve heard minority groups like the Rohingya complain about their abuse over the last few years. They tend to dismiss to some extent. Ambassador Marciel, a visiting scholar at the Walter H. Shoanstein Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, took an informal position at this month’s World Affairs Council event.

Push to cooperate

At the national level, this emotional change promotes the coordination of political goals between ethnic groups that have fought for self-determination and the broader public’s comprehensive desire to expel military junta.

Discussions are underway between ethnic community leaders and a group of elected members who have avoided detention and are working in a hideout known as the CRCH.

Last week, the CRPH announced the abolition of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution. This guarantees important military powers, including control of major ministries and a quarter of parliamentary seats. Instead, the representative adopted a charter aimed at eradicating dictatorship, bringing peace, and creating a “Federal Alliance of Democrats” that gives “equal rights and self-determination” to all nations.

Organizations representing major ethnic groups in Myanmar, such as Shan, Karen and Rakhine, are seizing the opportunity to overcome the differences and work with the CRCH to create a new federal constitution.

Since the coup, public support for the federal system has skyrocketed, said Sai Lake, a spokesman for the Alliance of Democrats of Shan Nationality. Myanmar Now This week’s news outlet. “When many people in mainland Myanmar realize that federalism is not separatism and that it can lead to greater unity, we should push the idea even harder. “

Tyke, a member of the Shan people working in Shan State, said he witnessed an important shift to “more unity between the Shan and Burmese and between different ethnic groups.” “People are talking a lot about federal democracy,” says Tyke, who asked him to withhold his real name for his protection.

Attitude change

Several major ethnic armed groups, such as the Karen National Union, have also shown a willingness to join forces in the creation of federal troops.

In total, the Ili National Army is estimated to have more than 100,000 soldiers, compared to Tamadu’s 350,000. “EAO [ethnic armed organizations] “Unify,” says Jonathan Lillebrad from Myanmar, who has been teaching and consulting on human rights and civil society in Yangon and ethnic regions since 2014.

Sure, distrust is unlikely to end overnight, but the federal government and military can start with a few major players and build from there, says Tower of the Institute for International Policy Studies. .. Indeed, scattered reports from within Myanmar show that the National Army is attracting extraordinary support and recruits, with some protesters evacuating the city, undergoing military training, and the National Army. Participating in.

An activist who demanded anonymity recently told the monitor over the phone from Yangon.

“Now there is a new appreciation for the suffering that many peoples have experienced and the steps Karen and other groups are taking to provide space, protection and fight,” said Tower. say.

For Paw, this represents a welcome 180-degree change in attitudes towards the minority.

In the past, Burmese people believed that “ethnic groups were like terrorists and rebels,” but now “they say they were blindfolded by military terrorists,” she said. say. The Burmese find that ethnic minorities are acting for self-defense, “they feel sorry and have no right to seek forgiveness,” she says. “But they will help us in the future.”

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