Rohingyas distrust Myanmar’s anti-junta resistance

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SITTWE (MYANMAR): Shadow government breaks taboos in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar by welcoming Rohingyas into its anti-junta coalition, but many members of the long persecuted Muslim minority are wary after experiencing decades of discrimination and deadly violence .
Myanmar has been in turmoil since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was overthrown in a coup in February, sparking huge pro-democracy protests and bloody military repression.
Dissenting lawmakers from his party dominate a “national unity government” in exile, rallying support for the resistance among foreign governments and in international news broadcasts.
Last month, they called on the Rohingya to ‘join hands’ to end military rule, vowing to repatriate those who fled to Bangladesh after a deadly 2017 military assault on their communities in the western part of the state. by Rakhine.
They also pledged to grant citizenship to the minority, which has long been stateless after decades of discriminatory policies.
The use of the word “Rohingya” was new – suspicious of the sentiments of the predominantly Buddhist and ethnically Bamar population, Suu Kyi’s government had referred to the community as “Muslims living in Rakhine”.
But suspicion persists among the Rohingya still in Myanmar, where they are widely seen as intruders from Bangladesh and have been denied citizenship, rights and access to services.
“Making a pledge and then getting support from abroad is like putting bait for the fish,” said Wai Mar, who has lived in an IDP camp for nearly a decade.
Reached by a bumpy and rutted road in the western town of Sittwe, the wooden huts at Thet Kay Pyin camp are home to Rohingya who were driven or burnt from their homes in previous clashes with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012.
“We fear that we exist only to be human shields or scapegoats,” Wai Mar added.
Mother of four San Yee, who struggles to provide for her children even with the remittances her husband sends from Malaysia, agrees.
“We cannot put all our trust and expectation in them because we have been oppressed for so long.”
Despite the overtures, there are no Rohingya representatives in the current 32-member cabinet of the national unity government.
“We figured out we wouldn’t get it all overnight” after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept an army-backed party in the 2015 election, another told AFP. inhabitant of the camp, Ko Tun Hla.
“But we didn’t even get basic human rights, for example, freedom of movement, to become a citizen, to go back to our original homes – we didn’t get any.”
From the camp, they heard reports of a horrific crackdown that sent 700,000 of their relatives across the border into Bangladesh, bringing reports of rape, arson and murder.
The Burmese public was largely unresponsive to the plight of the Rohingya, while activists and journalists covering the issues faced vitriolic abuse online.
After the military was accused of genocide, Suu Kyi traveled to The Hague to defend the generals in the UN’s highest court.
Months later, they removed her from office in a coup.
While anti-junta protesters in Bamar-majority cities like Yangon and Mandalay have shown no quarters by the military, many in Thet Kay Pyin are afraid.
“As they are killing their own people cruelly and brutally without any hesitation, they would do more to us because they don’t care about us,” said Tun Hla, another inhabitant of the camp.
A few days after the February coup, soldiers came to Thet Kay Pyin and held a meeting, initially to reassure people and ask them to remain calm, Win Maung said.
“But when we asked for our rights, they spoke in a threatening manner.”
“They said we were Bengali, not Rohingya, and they threatened to shoot us too.”
Bengali is a derogatory term for the Rohingya in Myanmar, which incorrectly implies that they are recent immigrants from Bangladesh.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing – who headed the armed forces during the 2017 crackdown – dismissed the word Rohingya as “an imaginary term”.
For many in Thet Kay Pyin, after nearly a decade of limbo, political allegiance comes second.
“If they give our rights, we will cooperate with the army, the NLD or the NUG,” Ko Tun Hla said.
“If our rights are granted, we will cooperate with anyone.”
San Yee added, “I want to go back and live my life like it was before, that’s my hope.
“But when will our expectations and our hopes come true? She sighed. “Only after we die?” ”


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