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08/02/2023 Burma (International Christian Concern) — The Burmese military, or Tatmadaw, announced on Tuesday that it would reduce Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint’s sentences. Suu Kyi and Win Myint led the previous civilian-run government as State Counsellor and President, respectively. The announcement coincided with the beginning of Vassa, an important Buddhist holiday, and another extension of the perpetual state of emergency that the junta uses to justify its suspension of rule of law in the country.

The Tatmadaw has a long history of violence against the people of Myanmar, including against ethnic and religious minorities like the Muslim-majority Rohingya and Christian-majority Chin. Soon after the 2021 coup, International Christian Concern published a report detailing several of these minority groups and proposing actions that the international community can take to push back against the Tatmadaw.

Tuesday also marked two and a half years since the February 2021 coup. Though Burma’s coup leaders have long promised a return to democracy, they have repeatedly delayed elections since overthrowing the government.

Analysts believe that the Tatmadaw could not conduct an election today given its tenuous control of the country. Recent reports suggest that anti-junta militias have gained significant ground in recent months, reducing the area under solid Tatmadaw control to as little as 17 percent, according to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar.

Suu Kyi, 78, has been detained since losing power and has faced a litany of trumped-up charges. The reprieve granted her this week reduced the cumulative length of her 19 convictions from 33 years to 25, according to the New York Times which cited her lawyer. A military spokesman said that her sentence was reduced by six years.

Suu Kyi was previously held under house arrest by the military for 15 years after she won her first election in 1990. This latest arrest came after she handily won the 2020 elections.

The Tatmadaw also announced clemency for about 7,000 other prisoners, many of whom face charges for pro-democracy activism or association with an ethnic or religious minority group.

Myanmar is a patchwork mosaic of ethnic and religious groups. Though a strong majority of the population is ethnic Burman, and an even greater percentage is Buddhist, the communities that make up the remainder are well-established, well-organized, and for the most part predate the formation of the modern state by centuries.

In many cases, Myanmar’s ethnic minorities have taken on a distinct religious identity as well. About 20-30% of ethnic Karen are Christians, while other groups—such as the Chin—are more than 90 percent Christian. This overlap of ethnic and religious identity has created a volatile situation for believers. In Chin State, for example, the majority of the population is Christian, creating a target-rich area for the military.

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