09/30/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Myanmar’s military junta announced this week that it would begin observing a unilateral ceasefire with ethnic militias beginning Friday, October 1.The ceasefire is planned to last for five months, through the end of February 2022. The announcement said that the ceasefire was a “gesture of goodwill” and an attempt to “[prevent] and control…the coronavirus pandemic.”
Analysts were quick to criticize the announcement, which many interpreted as an indication that the Tatmadaw plans to focus its efforts on quashing the armed pro-democracy movement before returning its focus to ethnic groups next year.
The Burmese military—known as the Tatmadaw—has violently oppressed the country’s ethnic and religious minority communities for decades and deposed the civilian government in February, sparking a powerful, country-wide pro-democracy movement.
68% of Myanmar’s population is ethnic Burman and 88% of the population is Buddhist, making minority communities a vulnerable target for Tatmadaw violence. Many ethnic minority communities are also non-Buddhist—the Rohingya, for example, are majority Muslim while other groups, such as the Chin, are majority Christian. Both groups have been heavily persecuted by the Tatmadaw.
The Tatmadaw has killed more than 1,100 civilians since the coup and imprisoned over 7,000. Of this latter number, nearly 6,000 are still being detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights group.
Representative Greg Meeks (D-NY) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) are expected to introduce legislation condemning the Tatmadaw any day, Hill staffers told ICC today. Meeks had privately indicated he would drop the legislation on the Tuesday of this week, but various items such as the debate over government funding and the possibility of a government shutdown on Friday seem to have delayed the process.
“There is little reason to think that the Tatmadaw has had a change of heart regarding Myanmar’s ethnic minorities,” said Jay Church, International Christian Concern’s Advocacy Manager for Southeast Asia. “This latest announcement does not indicate a weakening of the Tatmadaw’s desire to eradicate the country’s ethnic and religious minority communities. At best it is a simple shift in strategy—an attempt to manage international narrative on the issue or perhaps a recognition that it can only fight on so many fronts at once.”
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