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10/13/2024 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) — The Burmese military, known as the Tatmadaw, bombed a refugee camp in the northern state of Kachin this week. The strike killed 29 and wounded 55, according to the Kachin rebel group as reported in the New York Times.

The military has killed 4,146 civilians, including 472 children, since it seized the country in a February 2021 coup and arrested 25,300, according to the rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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 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.

In September, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), a regional bloc, voted to remove Myanmar from its scheduled chairmanship in 2026, replacing the country with the Philippines. ASEAN has consistently voiced its disapproval of Tatmadaw’s usurpation of the government.

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 rest are well-established, well-organized, and mostly predate the formation of the modern state by centuries.

The Tatmadaw has long persecuted Rohingya Muslims and ethnic minority Christians including with 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 more than 90% Christian. This overlap of ethnic and religious identity has created a volatile situation for believers. In Chin State, for example, most 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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