Home to over one hundred ethnic groups, Burma is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. However, throughout decades of civil war, ethnic minority groups have been persecuted and marginalised by the ruling military regime, and now thousands are displaced and facing severe insecurity.
The transition to a quasi-civilian government in 2011 brought much international acclaim and optimism, yet behind a public façade of reform, the Burmese army, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, still holds a great amount of power and influence in internal affairs, and many of Burma’s ethnic minorities continue to face abuse. In Kachin and northern Shan States, there has been an escalation in conflict and human rights violations since 2011, with Burmese military offensives resulting in the displacement of around 120,000 civilians and the destruction of over 200 villages. In Rakhine State, ongoing human rights abuses carried out by Burmese authorities against the Muslim Rohingya population has led to over 65,000 fleeing to Bangladesh since October 2016.
In areas where ceasefires have been signed, the Burmese Army is increasing and consolidating its presence, leading to ongoing insecurity and fear amongst the local population. International companies are moving in to exploit natural resources without proper consultation with or compensation for local communities, causing further displacement and destruction of livelihoods.
Despite all of these ongoing abuses, international funding is increasingly being funnelled through the Government and Government-approved Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). As a result, ethnic community-based organisations are seeing their funding cut dramatically. These organisations have been a lifeline for persecuted, disenfranchised communities for decades, delivering health, education and other services, and are also one of the main conduits through which ethnic minorities are able to make their voices heard.
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