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Sorry Rohingyas: Protesters In Myanmar Express Solidarity With Rohingya Muslims After Brutal Army Crackdown

A section of young protesters opposing the current military regime in Myanmar has turned sympathetic to the Rohingya cause. More than 750,000 Muslim Rohingyas had fled the Buddhist-majority country following the 2017 ethnic clashes.

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As Myanmar is witnessing large-scale protests against the February 1 military coup, different ethnic groups in the country have come together to voice their concern over what they see as the murder of democracy.

Over 1,200 people, including elected leaders, lawmakers, activists, protesters, civil servants have been detained in Myanmar since the February 1 coup, according to The Irrawaddy, a leading publication in the country.

The protesters are demanding the reinstatement of the democratically-elected government in the country. Amid all this, some youngsters have come up with posters apologizing or regretting not raising the voice during the military crackdown on the Rohingyas in the country’s Rakhine state.

Ethnic Burmans constitute two-thirds of Myanmar’s population; they are Buddhist by religion and dominate the governing class. The rest of the population is made up of over 100 ethnic minorities, many of whom have faced harassment at the hands of the military.

The Muslim Rohingyas had found no civilian or government support during the alleged persecution but rights activist in exile Nay San Lwin has told Time that protesters in Myanmar now see the military as a common enemy. They are finally changing their views towards their Muslim countrymen.

Many young protesters are using social media to express regret over not acting in the wake of the 2017 Rohingya crisis when about 750,000 Rohingya had fled the country. Founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, a nonprofit organization, told Nikkei Asia: “I don’t think the protesters are calling for rights only for Burman people. Race and religion are not an issue. What everyone cares about are humans.”

Meanwhile, Rohingyas in the country and in exile have expressed solidarity and support towards the protesters. They are hoping that standing in solidarity with the people of Myanmar will help end discrimination against them and bolster their fight for justice. Condemning the coup, the Rohingya Women’s Network has organized protests and released a statement, urging Rohingyas in Myanmar to stay in touch with the youngsters.

Ronan Lee, a visiting scholar at the International State Crime Initiative in the School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, has written in the ABC that there were strong indications of political realignment in the country much before. According to Lee, young activists who are concerned about the growth of racism in politics have taken action to curb it.

“Young inter-faith activists and groups like Generation Wave have been vocal supporters of human rights for all in Myanmar, including the Rohingya, and were strongly critical of ongoing military influence on politics,” he writes.

However, according to Jayanta Kalita, a Myanmar observer, “the Rohingya issue is far more complicated than what is usually stated by the West and some human rights groups”.

“It is not just the military but the majority of ethnic people, including the regional ethnic groups, are also concerned over the rise of the Rohingya militancy. Then, there are reports of China arming the Rohingya militant outfits, which are already designated as terrorist organizations by Myanmar,” Kalita said, adding, “it may take a very long time for any possible reconciliation to happen”.

Meanwhile, other ethnic groups are raising concern that due to the flaws in the 2008 constitution, there could be another coup in the country as it gives the military the right to take over the country.

Gum Grawng Awng Hkam, vice chairman of the Kachin State People’s Party, has said: “The 2008 constitution was not helping the country at all until the coup happened. It was not giving us equality. We want to make a new constitution.”

On February 1, the Myanmar military had overthrown the democratically-elected government and arrested the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint among others. The military, also known as Tatmadaw, has alleged large-scale frauds in last year’s general elections in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had secured a landslide victory.

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