Myanmar’s invisible conflict

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Myanmar was a British colony until January 4th, 1948 when the country became independent. In 1962, General Ne Win imposed a rigid blueprint in an attempt to create a self-sufficient socialist state, free from capitalist and communist influence, the so-called “Burmese Way to Socialism”. This resounding failure greatly improved poverty and isolation within the country. Notwithstanding the State-sponsored violence supported by its own military and civil population, the International community has turned its back and cut down resources leaving the country at its mercy.

As the Guardian labels it, the “Burma road to ruin” lead the country to be one of the least developed countries in the world. In 1988, as a result of several protests across the country against the Socialist System, a military coup was enacted, and the government was overthrown. Despite the efforts of the National League for Democracy (NLD) to restate democracy, the military junta decided to ignore the results.

The lack of representation and religious discrimination reinforced by the adoption of Buddhism as the “national” religion in Myanmar made other minorities feel unrepresented, threatened and prosecuted. The Karen minority, constituting a 7% of the total population, has been fighting for independence since 1949. The Burmese government has used numerous tactics in an attempt to make them cease their efforts. According to the UN Security Council, the tactics against Karen people have been identified as “ethnic cleansing”. More than 100,000 people have been displaced along the Thai-Myanmar border throughout seven refugee camps.

The General Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organisation described the situation as “desperate” and states that Karen people “are losing faith” due to the fact that the Thai government and external funds from NGOs and International Organisations are being cut off.

However, the idea of coming back to their land is a no-go. They don’t have a safe home to go back to even after the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed in October 2015. The government has violated the agreement on several occasions and a new arrangement has not yet been made.

While UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator states that “The closure of camps must be linked to improvements in freedom of movement and access to services and job opportunities” no movement towards a resolution of the crisis is been achieved. Therefore, the situation remains rather hostile and life-threatening for those who are forced to leave the camps and go back.

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