Myanmar’s restive border states, home to large ethnic minority populations, have seen a rise in violence by the country’s military junta in recent weeks and are facing a dire humanitarian crisis, members of activist and aid groups said Friday.
“Our country is on the brink of becoming a failed state, all due to the direct result of the military’s unlawful and brutal coup attempt,” said Khin Ohmar, chairwoman of the advisory board of Progressive Voice, a policy research and advocacy organization.
“Since the coup, what we have seen is an intensification of offensives by the Myanmar military in ethnic areas that is reaching extreme heights,” she said during a panel discussion on Zoom hosted by ASEAN Parliamentarian for Human Rights.
Khin Ohmar said military operations, including airstrikes and mortar attacks, against ethnic insurgent groups have led to the displacement of over 150,000 people in Karen, Chin, Kachin, Karenni and Shan states.
Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup on Feb. 1, arresting the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other high-ranking government officials.
The military, known as the Tatmadaw, called a yearlong state of emergency over alleged irregularities with parliamentary elections held in November, during which Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy Party won 399 of the 462 seats in parliament.
An ongoing public protest movement has seen a brutal crackdown by the junta, with 845 civilians killed and over 5,600 arrested, according to the latest daily figures from the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.
Armed forces have also been battling ethnic insurgent groups in borderland areas since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948.
The situation in the border states is deteriorating as the Tatmadaw has been isolating the conflict-stricken areas and preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching displaced people, activists said.
“The military is blocking all the support and humanitarian aid,” to Chin state in western Myanmar, said Michael Suantak, director of Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities.
Suantak said the Covid-19 pandemic is being used as a pretext to tighten control in the border states.
“The military has cut off communications and cut the municipal water system and food supplies” to Chin state, Suantak said. “The main transportation [routes] from Yangon and Mandalay have been stopped since [Thursday].”Maw Day Myar, a member of the Karenni National Women’s Organization, said humanitarian aid is also being blocked to Karenni state, located on the border with Thailand in the eastern part of the country. She said some 80,000 internally displaced people, many of them women and children, have fled into jungle areas away from the violence. SOVEREIGNPH