How Myanmar is using the Rohingyas as human shields

Last Updated on March 23, 2024 4:20 am

In 2021, Myanmar’s pro-democracy Aung San Suu Kyi government was ousted by the country’s military junta in a coup d’état. Later, various armed rebel groups of the country started fighting to oust this junta government. By late October last year, the fight had spread across the country. Myanmar’s military extended a state of emergency in the country last January amid heavy fighting.

Then in February they enacted a new program. This law makes it mandatory for young people to join the Myanmar army. Many expressed concern at the time that the move could disproportionately affect the Rohingya population.

In Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims are not only being bombed indiscriminately, they are also being forcibly recruited into the army. However, they are not recognized as citizens and have long been persecuted by the Myanmar authorities, especially the military.

What is happening in Myanmar?

Today’s Myanmar was formerly known as Burma. Before the 2015 elections, Myanmar was under military rule for almost five decades. In that election, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party came to power with a landslide victory. Suu Kyi’s party also won the election held in November 2020 by a huge margin. However, the country’s army has accused the country of widespread fraud in the election. They reject the election results.

In this situation, on February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military overthrew Suu Kyi’s government through a coup. Mass protests against Myanmar’s junta began shortly after the seizure of power. The junta government used military force to quell public protests. This led to an armed rebellion against the junta government in Myanmar.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) is documenting the repression of the junta in Myanmar. According to AAPP, 4,680 people have been killed by the Myanmar military since the coup.

The country’s ethnic armed groups have formed an alliance to fight Myanmar’s army. The Three Brotherhood Alliance consists of the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Tang National Liberation Army (TNLA). In October 2023, the coalition launched a major campaign against the military junta.

The Three Brotherhood Alliance named this operation ‘Operation 1027’. More than 100 outposts and bases of the Junta forces have fallen in this operation, which began on October 27 last year. In the face of intense attacks, the Junta troops retreated. They were forced to abandon heavy weapons and significant ammunition.

Counter-coup resistance forces, including the People’s Defense Force (PDF), the armed wing of the National Unity Government in Exile (NUG), made up of elected members of the NLD and the country, have also joined the fight, putting pressure on the generals.

In November 2023, Myanmar’s military admitted it had lost control of Chinshwehao after days of fighting with armed groups. This area is a border town in China’s Yunnan province. This city is the center of trade from Myanmar to China.

The Arakan Army has long been fighting for autonomy in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. Last January, the Arakan Army said it had taken full control of the key western city of Paletoa next to China province.

Myanmar’s military is also retaliating. After fleeing to Bangladesh and India, many of the remaining Rohingya are living in refugee camps in Rakhine State. Their movement there is strictly controlled.

The co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, a global network of Rohingya rights activists, Ne San Lwin said, Myanmar’s junta government is indiscriminately bombing Rohingya areas in various townships in Rakhine State.

Citing local sources, Neh San Lwin said, last Monday, the military junta forces bombed the city of Minbia in Rakhine state. At least 23 Rohingya including children were killed. 30 Rohingya were injured. Such attacks on Rohingyas are happening everywhere.

A recent order mandating the conscription of young men into Myanmar’s army has sparked panic across the country. Many of the country’s residents are looking for ways to escape to avoid mandatory military service. As the movement of the Rohingya is restricted, it is particularly difficult for them to evade the order.

Neh San Luin said he learned from local sources that at least 1,000 people from the Rohingya community had been recruited into the army. They were taken from the towns of Buthidong, Sittwe and Kyaukphyu.

Ne San also said many of them had just finished two weeks of military training. They are dropped on the battlefield. Many of them were killed fighting with the rebels. They are being used as human shields by the military junta in Rathedong. The Myanmar army had previously used coolies as human shields.

Who are Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group in Myanmar. According to the international human rights organization Minority Rights Group, there are 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar. The country has seven ethnic minority states. Among them, Burmese are the largest and most influential ethnic group.

Rohingyas are not included in this list of 135 ethnic groups. They have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982. Almost all Rohingya live in Myanmar’s coastal state of Rakhine. Until 1990, this area was known as Arakan

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