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Country Conditions: The Persecution Of Ethnic Groups In Burma


Burma officially referred to as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (for short, Myanmar) is a country in the southeastern part of Asia. It has an estimated population of about 54 million. The country practices a unitary assembly independent republic administered by a military junta. It has had no functioning legislative arm since the coup d'état of February 2021. Legislative powers were transferred to the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, Min Aung Hlaing by the Acting President, Myint Swe. Min Aung Hlaing is also the Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Administrative Council.

Burma is home to a host of ethnic groups of which the major ones are; Burma, Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Chinese, Mon, Kachin, Burmese Indians, Mon, and a host of others. The major ethnic groups are ethnic Burmese or Bamar amounting to 68% of the population, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Burmese Indians 2%, Mon 2%, and others amounting to 5%. Burma or Myanmar is largely a multi-ethnic country.

With reported cases of violence against ethnic groups in Burma, the question lingers on who orchestrates and executes the reported acts of violence? Why are these acts perpetrated? What can be done to put a stop to these acts?

This article attempts to provide answers to the questions above.

Persecution Of Ethnic Groups In Burma

Ethnic bias and violence against ethnic minority groups are very much prevalent in Burma(Myanmar). Without any doubt, most of the cases of violence and discrimination are perpetrated by the military, the Burmese government, and in some cases the majority of Burmese people. The Rohingya people are one of the most affected ethnic groups. Mostly suffering from forced labor, rape, murder, torture, and humiliation. These acts of human rights abuse are more prevalent (according to some sources), in the ethnic states of Rakhine, Chin, Shan, Kachin, and Karen. The level of maltreatment dosed on minority ethnic has become so worrisome that it has developed into a possible genocide, especially of the Rohingya people.

The Rohingya people are mostly a Muslim minority with most of them residing in Rakhine State which borders Bangladesh. The Burmese government insists that they are immigrants from Bangladesh although they have lived within Burma for centuries. Hence, the Burmese 1982 citizenship law does not recognize them as citizens. Over time, the Rohingya people have been successively persecuted formally and informally, especially since Burma got independence.

Some of the unfair treatments suffered by these discriminated minorities, especially the Rohingya ethnic group are;

Barriers to the right to marry and procreate: Rohingya people in some areas are expected to obtain permission from the government before they can marry. In some areas, they are not permitted to have more than two children. If they violate the limitation to childbirth, the other child(ren) will not be registered and will be denied access to government services including education.

Barriers to movement: The freedom of movement even to neighboring villages is not freely granted to Rohingyas. They must obtain government permission to travel. They undergo rigorous scrutiny coupled with long waits and payment of bribes to gain travel permits.

Forced Labour: Rohingyas (mostly in Northern Rakhine) are usually subjected to working for military and government officials without any pay. This includes children as well.

Deprivation of Proper Processes: Rohingyas are regularly subjected to the forceful seizure of properties, unwarranted arrest and detention, assaults, sexual harassment, and torture from authorities.

Extreme Discrimination: In addition to the aforementioned, Rohingyas are also excluded or prevented from the teaching, engineering, medical professions. Many health care centers deny them medical services. Besides, Rohingyas wouldn't want to visit health centers to avoid discrimination or abuse.

In addition to Rakhine state being very poor, therefore making them economically disadvantaged, they also face possible extermination. With every opportunity they get, Rohingyas will choose to flee their country due to the unfair treatment. This is also true for other mistreated minorities such as people with Shan, Chin, Kachin, and Karen roots. Many minority groups in Burma suffer a similar fate as the Rohingya people too.

A Militarised Burma

In 2016 and 2017, the Burmese military launched a killing and arson raid on Rohingyas living in the part that borders Bangladesh. This resulted in over 740,000 people fleeing Burma. So when the military executed the February 1, 2021 coup, it didn't come as a surprise. Instead, ethnic minorities protested against the military takeover.

What was the result? They were brutally killed and beaten by the police and military and their bodies were dragged through the streets. Their call for the honoring of the November 2020 election results was completely ignored.

International intervention is most needed to quell the tension in Burma. With that large number of people being persecuted and mistreated, it is impossible to tell if it will ever stop. Unless, of course, international bodies mediate in the situation, and also an assurance of healthier situations for oppressed minorities.


09 February 2022
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