Ethnic group welcomes int’l lawsuits against Myanmar

Karen community, suffering the same violence perpetrated by Myanmar military for decades, says it is time for justice

YANGON, Myanmar

Dozens of community-based groups representing ethnic Karen people welcomed the legal steps taken to hold Myanmar accountable for alleged genocide against ethnic minority groups, including Rohingya Muslims, in the country’s west.

A total of 48 groups based in Myanmar and abroad issued a joint statement on Monday, saying the international lawsuits against Myanmar send a clear signal to military leadership that the net of justice is closing in, and their days of impunity for crimes against all ethnic people in Myanmar are numbered.

“As with the Rohingya, our Karen people have suffered for decades from the systematic human rights violations by the Burma [Myanmar] Army,” it said.

The statement released by the Worldwide Karen Community was referring the filling of a case of genocide against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice, and the decision by the International Criminal Court to proceed with an investigation into the systematic acts of violence against the Rohingya.

  • Bringing military under civilian control crucial to end civil war

The groups added that bringing military under the civil control is one of few factors that can bring an end to civil war and the ongoing crimes committed by the security forces.

“This is a critical time for action,” it said, adding international community needed to exert further pressure to push for a complete halt to Myanmar military offensive throughout the country.

Ethnic Karen people, under the banner of Karen National Union (KNU), the then-most powerful rebel groups in the country, have been fighting against the central government and military for greater autonomy since shortly after the country’s independence in 1948.

The KNU was however weakened in 1990s after military’s divide and rule split it into many breakaway groups. The fighting forced tens of thousands of ethnic Karen people to flee to neighboring Thailand.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, there are about 98,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Karen people, still sheltering at nine official camps along the border in Thailand side.

“It is simple because we are on the same boat with Rohingya people. We suffer the same military persecution,” said Naw Wahkushee, a spokeswoman of the groups.

“We show solidarity with Rohingya people in fight for justice for all those who suffer,” she told Anadolu Agency by phone.

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