A cabinet minister from Myanmar’s parallel government publicly apologized to all Rohingya Muslims in a pre-recorded video for ignoring the sufferings of the persecuted minority group over the past five years. The civilian-led government was toppled on February 1 in a military coup.
Just week old Susana Hla Hla Soe, Minister for Women, Youth and Children of the National United Government (NUG), admits the failures of the civilian government under national leadership Aung Sang Suu Kyi. ignoring human rights in ethnic minority areas, including the Rohingya Muslims.
“I personally apologize for that,” she said on Thursday, adding that although she had been a member of parliament for five years, she did not “speak up for our brothers and sisters from various regions. clan, including the Rohingya brothers and sisters. ”
“I am truly sorry for that,” said Hla Hla Soe during a press conference hosted by the ASEAN MPs on Human Rights (APHR) and the Altsean-Burmese NGO advocacy group (Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma ) organization.
Ms. Hla Hla Soe also called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional political, economic and security group comprising 10 Southeast Asian countries and other international nations to recognize their national governments. parallel with Myanmar’s ruling government.
ASEAN leaders will meet on Saturday in Jakarta to discuss the post-coup situation in Myanmar and will likely appoint a special envoy to reconcile the crisis, which has claimed the lives of more than 730 people. – mostly civilian protesters shot down by stubborn soldiers fighting soldiers.
Hla Hla Soe’s words echo those of Dr. Sasa, who was appointed as international cooperation minister and government spokesperson when NUG was old on April 16.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to work to bring all the nationalities into our Unified Government so that it represents the great diversity and strength of the nation. This great Myanmar, ”he said in a statement issued that day.
Dr Sasa, who is also the special envoy for the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Representative Committee (CRPH), a group of lawmakers toppled during the coup, said: “We will bring you justice. Rohingya and everyone. to the United Nations.
The Rohingya have been subjected to state-sanctioned repression in Myanmar largely Buddhist for decades, with former civilian-led government officials refusing to use the word “Rohingya” and some calls the members of the group “Bengalis”.
A crackdown led by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya, who have been denied citizenship for being considered illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, killed thousands in August 2017. and forced another 745,000 people out of Rakhine state. They have lived in sprawl displacement camps in Cox’s Bazar district, southeastern Bangladesh for almost four years.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s government denies that the military has committed any wrongdoing, and she defended her actions during a hearing at the International Court of Justice in December 2019. an investigation by the United Nations last year found the persecution was carried out with genocide purposes.
The comments of two parallel government officials came as security forces continued to brutally suppress anti-government protests across the country following the coup, leaving many Burmese, two-thirds of the population, must taste violence and violate similar rights. Rohingya and the others suffered.
The multiracial nation with 54 million people on a territory slightly larger than France has suffered ethnic wars for seven decades since independence from the hands of British colonial rulers in the year. 1948. Some ethnic armies joined hands with the anti-coup movement and gave the protesters safe shelter.
The ethnic Rakhines in Myanmar’s westernmost state have also suffered the brunt of the military forces in northern Rakhine state for more than two years amid clashes with the Arakan Insurgent Army (AA), fighting for determination. the higher mind of the Rakhine people.
Officials and ordinary citizens all point out that their views on the Rohingya have changed after the coup and apologize for suspicions of the terrible violence the Muslims endured during the “liberation campaign. the army’s “ground level in 2017 and the target are the Rakhines in the army’s counterattack against AA in 2019 and 2020.”
Hundreds of ethnic Rakhin people were killed, and more than 200,000 were displaced by fighting and attacks on their villages.
Student activists in Yangon’s Thanlyin town issued a public apology to the Rohingya and the Rakhines in four languages on March 27.
“We stand with the Rakhines, the Rohingya, the Muslims, against all injustices [towards] they start today, ”said the letter from the Thanlyin Technological University Student Union.
“We sincerely apologize for our ignorance and silence in the past,” it said.
Dr. Phio Thiha, a renowned medical doctor who became a writer with 550,000 Facebook followers, wrote a social media post in February apologizing to the Rohingya and the Rakhines for their do not sympathize with their struggles and believe in the military’s propaganda against them.
“I’m so ashamed now,” he wrote. “Those people have endured helplessness, hopelessness, bullying and violence for many years just as we are right now. They are not as strong as we are. They don’t have phones like us to record the abuse. Like us, they are not allowed to communicate with the world.
On the same day, another writer, Moe Shinn IMT, who has 1.6 million followers on Facebook, wrote a similar little quote for the Rohingya and Rakhines.
“I didn’t expect forgiveness, but I’m sorry,” he wrote in a social media post. “I apologize for not speaking up about ethnic issues and the Rohingya issue in the past. I don’t know what the future will be like, so I’m sorry at the moment for my lack of understanding on those matters ”.
‘We were in the dark’
Such attitudes are a clear indication of the alienation most citizens of Myanmar once had toward the Rohingya.
Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization in the UK, said when the army attacked the Rohingya, most people in other parts of the country were in doubt about their atrocities, being grouped by groups. recorded human rights.
“When there was this genocide against the Rohingya, many people in the country thought it couldn’t come true,” he said. “People believed in military lies.”
Tun Khin, who was in Bangladesh when the Rohingya escaped from Myanmar, said that every day he sees thousands of people with gunshot wounds, loss of limbs and severe burns across the border.
“Now, people in big cities like Yangon and Mandalay are facing similar crimes [at the hands] of the military as the Rohingya did in 2017, ”he said. “We also feel sorry for them.”
Only after witnessing atrocities in major cities following the military coup do people there realize that they have misinterpreted the Rohingya crisis, a Yangon resident said.
“These Rohingya are said to have set fire to their homes and cried bitterly when UN officials came to see them,” she said. “That’s what we learned from the government. We have doubts about reports of military repression of the Rohingya and other minorities.
“After the February 1 coup we saw the brutality and violence in our streets that we thought could not happen, and only then we realized we were in the shadows. dark when other ethnic minorities suffer at the hands of the army, “she said.
Burmese netizens’ social media posts about the Rohingya often filled with hate speech now contain sympathetic words.
‘Very bitter experiences’
As for ethnic Rakhines, Nyo Aye, president of the Rakhine Women’s Network, said it is not known whether any of the people kidnapped or tortured by the military in recent years are still alive.
“We have very bitter experiences from this suffering, recalling a viral video of male villagers held by the Myanmar army being beaten and kicked by men,” she said. casual clothes when they were on a navy boat.
As many as 314 civilians were killed and 719 injured in fighting in northern Rakhine state and in the neighboring town of Paletwa in Chin from December 2018 to April, according to an RFA tally.
An unnamed university student said that he had heard about the military’s alleged human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas, but now he is becoming more sympathetic.
“When the internet service stopped working in Rakhine state, we understood that it was shut down to cut ties with AA,” he said. “We don’t think that is a big deal because in Rakhine has been inactive for a long time.”
“But now we are facing a similar situation, we understand their suffering,” he said.
Min Ko Naing, a Burmese democracy activist and former leader of the 88th Generation Student Group, calls the government “bloodthirsty”, but says the country’s ethnic groups are now more united thanks to coup.
“The authorities still threaten, still sow dissent, still kill innocent people, but we remain united,” he said in a statement on April 16.
“We in cities are going through the brutality and wickedness of the military like our brothers in ethnic regions,” he said. “We gradually understand each other better and sympathize better”.
Reported by July Myo for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translation by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.