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  • Writer's pictureTéa Satariano

Myanmar: An Internal War


Citizens protesting the military government in Myanmar.

As the Sit-Tat military government in Myanmar expands its power, citizens have taken to the streets to protests human rights abuses (unknown author, Wikimedia Commons)


Historical Instability in Myanmar


Myanmar has experienced one of the world’s longest civil wars since its independence from Britain in 1948. The Sit-Tat, Myanmar’s military government, has exacerbated conflicts in the region during its decades of reign. Under the Sit-Tat’s rule, the country has been plagued by internal violence and a growing drug trafficking industry, resulting in refugees spilling into neighboring countries. Instances of violence include the accidental bombing of Chinese territory and the Rohingya genocide, both of which resulted in the deaths of several civilians and displaced several more as refugees. In particular, the Rohingya genocide, an attempted eradication of the country’s Muslim ethnic minority, led to a refugee crisis in which over 900,000 people poured into Bangladesh. As such events would suggest, the majority of Myanmar’s population is severely impoverished, and as the war rages on, the refugee crisis will only continue to grow. 


Effects of the 2021 Military Coup


The Sit-Tat’s official coup occurred in February of 2021. Since then, they have terrorized millions of people who are opposed to the organization’s rule. The military security forces have implemented a nationwide crackdown, in which they committed extensive crimes (mass killings, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, and torture), against the country’s citizens. Villages have been burned in numerous regions—further contributing to the Myanmar refugee crisis—and the group’s continued mismanagement of Myanmar’s economy has led to a significant increase in poverty. 


Most notable, however, has been the punishment of those within the country’s democratic party. Several members of the now-ousted National League for Democracy party have been sentenced to prison and hard labor in unfair trials– including former President Win Myint. Other members have been tried and sentenced by the group for corruption, incitement, and breaching of the Official Secrets Act—an act that effectively criminalizes any opposition to the country’s military or police forces.


Local Militias Fight for Autonomy 


As the Sit-Tat’s dominance increased in recent years, militias across the country have begun to combat the group’s forces. One such instance involves an ethnic group known as the Arakan Army. The group, which fights for greater autonomy in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, has overpowered some outposts. However, fighting between the militia and the military group has sent many fleeing into India. The group is part of a large alliance called the Three Brotherhood Alliance, a pact consisting of armed ethnic minority groups. The group launched a major offensive attack in late October to commandeer weapons and ammunition from military outposts. The alliance includes the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, as well as several other ethnic organizations. The success of the alliance’s offensive has renewed momentum and support for the anti-coup movement, as bases surrounding ally China continue to fight for autonomy in Myanmar. 


Recent International Case Against the Government of Myanmar


The International Court of Justice took notice of Myanmar’s suffering in 2022 with the official opening of the case of Gambia vs Myanmar, exploring Myanmar's alleged violation of the Genocide Convention with the persecution of the ethnic Rohingya population in the northern Rakhine state. Gambia argues that both it and Myanmar were parties to the 1948 convention and that Myanmar has breached the convention by committing various atrocities. So far, six countries—the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark, France, Germany, and Canada—have filed a declaration of intervention in the case, effectively cementing the country’s dedication to holding the government of Myanmar to justice. The UN Human Rights Council has regarded the situation in Myanmar as one in which “hope is rare,” and has included that there is increasing evidence that crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes, are being committed daily inside the country. 

 

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