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10/10/2023 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Reports from Myanmar indicated that the country’s democratically-elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, recently saw her legal appeals denied. She has been detained since the Burmese military took power in a February 2021 coup and is currently imprisoned under a litany of falsified charges. In August, the regime announced that the cumulative length of her nineteen convictions would be reduced from 33 years to 25, according to the New York Times, which cited her lawyer. 

Last month, sources close to Suu Kyi said that the military regime denied her requests to be attended to by an outside physician. Instead, the 78-year-old leader is being seen by a regime-appointed prison doctor. 

According to the Burmese Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the regime has arrested a total of 25,256 political prisoners since taking power and still holds 19,669 of that number. In addition, according to AAPP, the regime has killed 4,142 persons. The Burmese military’s war against its civilian population is considered the world’s longest-running civil war and stretches back to 1948. 

When the military took over the government in 2021, it promised that it would quickly conduct free and fair elections. It has broken that promise and accompanying self-imposed deadlines several times since, and 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%, according to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar. 

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. 

The Tatmadaw has long persecuted Rohingya Muslims and ethnic minority Christians, including bombings of civilians, torture, and attempts to forcefully convert minorities to Buddhism. 

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 over 90% 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. 

Many refugees from Myanmar flee directly across the western border into India and Bangladesh or across the eastern border into Thailand. Some end up resettling as far away as the United States and Australia, while many others face decades of uncertainty in massive refugee camps closer to Myanmar. 

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