According to government officials in Beijing, more than 20,000 people from Northern Myanmar have fled to neighboring China in recent months, seeking refuge from deadly fighting between ethnic groups and the army. The latest clashes have been in Shan, a Northeastern state, which has seen repeated bouts of fighting between the army and ethnic minorities, leaving at least 30 people dead. The attack was led by the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance army in an attempt to protest against the military pressure on the Northern Alliance, a coalition of four ethnic minority armies. Many groups in the border region share close cultural ties in China. In an attempt to temporarily avoid war, China has given humanitarian assistance to those residents seeking refuge from the clashes. The violence threatens the goal of Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to reach peace with minorities.
The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) is a communist-inspired armed insurgent group in the Kokang region of Myanmar. Founded in 1989, the MNDAA was formed after the local Communist Party of Burma leader, Pheung Kya-Shin, was dissatisfied with the direction of the party. They agreed to a ceasefire with the government, which resulted in an era of peace that underwent an economic boom, with both the MNDAA and regional Myanmar Armed forces greatly benefiting. After breaking the ceasefire agreement in 2009, which had held for two decades, the insurgents continue to attack the police and military, preaching Kokang nationalism and separatist ideals. After the most recent attacks, the rebels have conceded in their statement that they have temporarily retreated due to the army push back.
While this article mainly focuses on the Kachin and Chin ethnic groups in the north of Myanmar, bordering and sharing customs with China, it is imperative to understand the landscape of the country regarding major ethnic groups. Myanmar has had a long history of violence and persecution against minorities, deeply rooted from the nation’s origins. The country officially recognizes 135 ethnic groups, but the Rohingya Muslims have been rendered stateless and stripped of their citizenship. Labelled as “The most persecuted group in Asia” by the Economist, Rohingya Muslims have been rebelling against decades of persecution. The Rohingya inhabit the impoverished borderlands between Myanmar and Bangladesh, both of whom have refused to accept them into their respective countries.
The Rohingya inhabit the impoverished borderlands between Myanmar and Bangladesh, both of whom have refused to accept them into their respective countries. The Rakhine state was once independent, until Burma annexed it in 1784, when the British had barely set foot in the Irrawaddy delta. While the country remains heavily divided and deeply pluralistic, one ideal shared across the spectrum of religious and political hues is a sense of deep foreboding. So far, it appears that Myanmar might have to go through the trials and tribulations of war and further oppression and marginalization until they push forward and breakthrough for a better life for all ethnicities in the nation.
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