Two years after the military coup in Myanmar

Violence in their home country, cold in the camps

Two years after the military coup in Myanmar (February 1, 2021), the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the fact that minority groups are still in a dramatic situation in the country and in the refugee camps in neighboring countries. The Muslim Rohingya – who became victims of genocide in August 2017 – are especially affected: “We are receiving dramatic calls for help from the refugee camps in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of people have been sitting tight for years. In winter, life in the tents and corrugated iron shacks is harsh, and there is a lack of blankets and warm clothing,” stated Jasna Causevic, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. “The people have lost hope to be able to return to their war-torn and chaos-ridden homeland again. The Rohingya have disappeared from international attention almost completely.”

Now, there is a bit of hope because of criminal proceedings that were initiated by 16 individual plaintiffs from Myanmar, together with the Thailand-based NGO Fortify Rights. On January 20, 2023, they filed criminal charges against high-ranking Myanmar military officials with the German Prosecutor General – who, according to the principle of world law, is responsible for the most serious crimes, even if they occurred outside of Germany. “The appellants are demanding accountability for those who committed genocide crimes against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in the years of 2016 and 2017 – and for the atrocities committed in the course of the military coup,” Causevic explained. “It is quite unlikely that the perpetrators will actually be punished, of course. However, a legal processing of the crimes could at least help to make amends. In Myanmar, there is still no end to the violence in sight. However, if the situation in the country changes one day, findings by German courts could help to put an end to impunity.”

The military of Myanmar, also known as the Tatmadaw, has been suppressing ethnic minorities and the political opposition for decades. A short phase of relative openness before the military coups in 2021 was not beneficial for the Rohingya. Even Aung San Suu Kyi – the now imprisoned winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – had tried to justify the fact that the military had suppressed and displaced the Muslim minority. “A constitutional revision would have been the only way to improve the situation – but the alternative ‘National Unity Government’ did not achieve this,” recalled Dr. Ambia Perveen, Vice President of the European Rohingya Council. “As long as the military controls the country, there will be no progress.” Western countries should demand a return to democracy and provide political and legal expertise. “The Rohingya must be recognized as victims of genocide, and they must be granted compensation. The Rohingya refugees will not be able to return to their homeland before they are granted citizenship and recognized as an ethnic minority,” Perveen added.