Protests, strikes and other forms of civil disobedience have been going on across the country since February 1, when the Myanmar army staged a coup against the country’s civilian government. In response, the army, also known as Tatmad, has deployed ruthless forces to quell the unrest and killings. More than 60,000 people, At least 46 of them children.
As much of the violence has taken place in the big cities, so has the perimeter of the country. In late March, the state of Karen was hit by repeated airstrikes, killing at least 19 people, injuring 40 and displacing thousands. Tatmada has also stepped up military activity in Kachin State and increased violence against civilians in Kareni State. The war has displaced more than a thousand people and killed civilians in Shan State.
It is not surprising that such attacks are happening. Growing solidarity is emerging among the various ethnic groups that have been harmed by Myanmar’s military for decades, and about a third of the population and the Bama majority and ethnic groups who are fighting the coup. This has certainly worried the military leadership and could explain the increased aggression.
The international community should not repeat its past mistakes if it wants to resolve the situation in Myanmar and restore civilian rule. It must be understood that the country has never been a unified nation and recognizes the aspirations of different ethnic groups within its borders.
A divided nation
The foundations of Myanmar’s long-standing ethnic conflict were laid during British colonization, which began in 1824. The British colonists divided the population and imposed ethnic divisions and classifications in favor of governance. During World War II, ethnic groups such as the Karen fought on the side of the British against the Burmese and in return expected an independent state.
After the departure of the British in 1947, Karen and other ethnic groups continued their struggle for self-determination and to this day they have denied the vision imposed by a Burmese nation. There have been autonomy or independence movements among many groups that have manifested themselves in dozens of ethnic groups and groups.
The struggle of the Karen National Union (KNU) for autonomy is widely regarded as one of the longest running conflicts in the world, among the many conflicts resulting from this aspiration. In 2015, the KNU signed the Multilateral National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with various other ethnic armed groups and joined the Myanmar peace process. But it did not resolve the tension. In violation of the ceasefire agreement, the Myanmar army has continued to expand military bases and roads through the Karen territories, provoking frequent armed clashes with the KNU. In 2018, the KNU as well as the Shan State Rehabilitation Council (RCSS), two key signatories, suspended their involvement in the peace process, which has now completely collapsed following the February 1 coup.
The lack of understanding between the international community and the media on ethnic dynamics in Myanmar was revealed when, in 2001, just two years after the peace process began, the military launched a massive ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya people in Rakhine State. Genocide, sexual violence, and the expulsion of civilians shocked the world, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi decided to defend her army against genocide.
However, this came as no surprise to members of Myanmar’s various ethnic groups. They have long pointed to the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of a Burmese general, and her National League for Democracy (NLD) have been guided by a political worldview that is rooted in Burmese: cultural hegemony and ethnic minority languages, erosion of cultures, leftist numbers. By religions and regions.
Not as a united nation, Myanmar is better understood, as a region united in the iron grip of the army and spread to its ends. The ethnic armed groups that are clashing with the army are not only “rebels”, but in many cases the administrative bodies in several parts of the country have long been abandoned by the central authorities. People living in these regions consider themselves citizens of an independent, sovereign state.
In collaboration with local civil society, these ethnic organizations provide health care, education, and other social services while performing virtually all state functions. In contrast, the central Myanmar government has never been able to achieve this consistently, even in controlled areas. Thus, these de-facto ethnic states (and we should be justified) may be considered more legitimate than the brutal junta, which most Bama citizens do not support. Indeed, while ethnic armed groups have ignored the element of resistance against dictatorship in Myanmar, it has long been essential that the situation be the same today.
The reason for uniting the different peoples of the country was the repressive long rule of the military. In the wake of the February 1 coup, coming from different perspectives, these groups are increasingly uniting against the military junta.
They have begun to communicate their differences more than ever before. This is despite the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the NLD, have preserved it among ethnic nationalists who hold a broad view of betrayal. Could it be a lucky political fictional ge that is involved in something other than the cultural domination of the influential Bamar ethnic group, its descent moment? The brutality with which the Myanmar army is responding to this new inter-ethnic solidarity suggests that this could happen.
Despite the brutal crackdown, protests against military rule continue across the country, including the far-reaching civil disobedience movement. It is increasingly clear that this moment is much more than the release and reinstatement of Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the detained NLD group in Yangon and Mandalay. By doing so, the federal claim has signs such as “stealing indigenous lands by stealing Myanmar’s military” signs democracy.
Meanwhile, protests are taking place in Maitkaina, the capital of Kachin state, and in the Karen-controlled Mutrao (Hpapun) district: military junta rejecters demanding ethnic identity and sovereignty.
As a result of allegations made by many protesters, a committee representing the country’s parallel civilian government, the Paidaungsu Halta (CRPH), announced plans to repeal the 2006 constitution, emphasizing control of the government’s military. This represents a major turning point for the county. Especially for many ethnic workers, it represents a moment that many work through their entire lives.
The inter-entity solidarity in the protest movement has led many more countries to federal democracy than could have been imagined a few months ago. Now even the majority members of the Left are increasingly struggling with the reality of being part of a diverse, multi-ethnic political entity. This emerging multi-ethnic alliance is essentially a constituency under Tatmador’s boot, with decades of tiring life and death.
There is also a legacy of support between ethnic groups and pro-democracy leaders that preceded the 1969 coup or “democracy movement.” It was a working class and student-led movement that protested against poverty alleviation under the separatist totalitarian regime, centering on organizations to strengthen the military when its people suffered. It was during this protest movement that Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a leader. However, the breadth of solidarity is now unprecedented in Myanmar and its border areas, which oppose military rule.
Generation Z is a driving force of the youth protest movement and at the top in calling for the rights of ethnic minorities. Thanks to their active internet and mobile use, members of this generation, like their parents, were exposed to images and news of the civil war on the country’s borders. Internet access has become widely available in Myanmar since 2014, and has been repeatedly blocked in various cases during anti-Tatmad protests.
Comprised of younger and more ethnically diverse populations than the CRFH and responsible for coordinating protests across the country in general, the National General Strike Committee is described as aimed at establishing a federal democracy where ethnic nationalists have equal representation in government. It has been able to establish a clear political vision over the past few weeks that goes beyond ethnic majority domination, the principles of colonial colonialism and the genocidal violence in the modern state of Myanmar. It unites the views and interests of all the people of Myanmar.
There is also a perception among the civilian government and members of parliament that ethnic minorities are valuable allies that should move the country forward. The CRPH has removed the country’s ethnic armed groups from the state terrorist list. This is a step towards building unity among the different countries of the country
In the face of historic historical injustice and betrayal by the previous NLD government, nationalists are wary of trusting such an alliance. However, it is noteworthy that the anti-fascist Bamar-ethnic conflict in central Myanmar, in contrast to the ethnic administration, does not have its own military. Thus the anti-coup movement will probably become dependent on ethnic states and their armed branches in the absence of foreign intervention. Indeed, there is every indication of a strong desire to work together across ethnic groups to overthrow military rule.
More civilians in urban areas, most of them Bamars, including CRPH members, are now displaced and taking refuge in areas controlled by ethnic armed groups. Taking KNU alone says it is providing food and shelter to more than 2,000 refugees. Army troops also said they had left the KNU area to join the opposition to the military coup. These developments highlight the increasingly important role of ethnic armed groups in the fight against the military.
.An instrument of the era of colonial nationalism, Myanmar has yet to achieve a shared political fantasy among the many ethnic groups bordering it. This notion of Myanmar as a cohesive nation hinders the appropriate international response to ongoing state violence.
The reality is that a participatory opposition to the national project has not yet been determined. It is an incredibly crude and painful moment, as activists and civilian leaders are taken from their homes and a growing number of innocent protesters and ethnic civilians die every day. It matured a moment with probability, as new grammars of release began to take shape. For the Karen, Rohingya, Kachin and many other non-Burmese ethnic groups, a return to stability is out of the question.
In light of the coup and two months of protests, it is time for the international community to change its stance on Myanmar. It must be understood that it was a mistake to promote and fund a deeply flawed peace process in the never-ending attacks of Tatmado in ethnic areas. Donor governments should recognize that they have failed to take ethnic concerns seriously.
The governments of the United Nations and the world should stop engaging in coup-makers and supporting the now-unforgiving peace process. They have unimaginable powers and responsibilities to engage with pro-democracy forces in their country with the aim of establishing a new system of governance that guarantees the political, cultural and territorial rights of all ethnic groups in the country.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the authors’ own and Al Jazeera’s editorial position.