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Myanmar’s NUG asks Rohingya to join hands in fighting junta

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of a self-defense group in Myanmar make guns to be used against security forces in Kayah state. (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar’s national unity government has called on the Rohingya minority to join hands in fighting the junta in return for citizenship for the persecuted Muslim community.

The so-called National Unity Government (NUG), which includes many politicians from the party of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said in a statement on Friday that they “invite Rohingyas to join hands with us and with others to participate in this Spring Revolution against the military dictatorship.”

The NUG said it would scrap a 1982 citizenship law that discriminates against the Rohingya, promising all those born in Myanmar or to a Myanmar citizen would be granted citizenship.

It also said the NUG was committed to repatriating all Rohingya languishing in camps in neighboring Bangladesh "as soon as repatriation can be accomplished voluntarily, safely and with dignity."

Almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees remain stuck in squalid, crowded conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

This includes about 750,000 people, who were forced to leave their homeland amid the military-led crackdown against their community in 2017.

Thousands were killed. Many were raped, tortured, or arrested in the crackdown, perpetrated with “genocidal intent,” according to the United Nations, which described the community as the most prosecuted minority in the world.

The invitation came as the government of Suu Kyi had avoided even using the term Rohingya, instead referring to the minority ethnic group as “Muslims in Rakhine state.”

Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize 30 years ago for her resistance against the military and was held under house arrest for 15 years, had supported the military crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim people in the western state of Rakhine.

She eventually appalled the international community in December 2019, when she traveled to the Hague to defend the military atrocities against the Rohingya people at the United Nations’ top court.

The national unity government, however, said attitudes were changing.

“The entire people of Burma (Myanmar) is sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya as all now experience atrocities and violence perpetrated by the military,” it said.

“The solidarity of the entire people is now at its best. We are confident that we can build a union that meets the needs of all those in the country who have a stake in its future.”

A group of Rohingya refugees gather on a beach after arriving at Pulau Idaman, a small island off the coast of East Aceh in northern Sumatra, on June 4, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The shadow government, which seeks international recognition, has faced questions over whether it will recognize the citizenship and rights of the Muslim minority group, in Myanmar.

Tun Khin, president of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, said that the NUG needs to provided further clarity, including on how it would commit to seeking international justice.

“The NUG must, crucially, recognize that a genocide is taking place against the Rohingya,” he said.

“If we can’t face the reality of the past, there is no way that we can build a common future.”

The NUG has already signed an agreement with a local armed group to “demolish” the junta.

Many ethnic groups who have maintained their own forces for decades have been supporting the NUG. Several communities across the country have formed local "defense forces."

Locals have now begun making rifles at makeshift factories hidden in Myanmar’s jungle, to take the fight to the junta.

The performance of the homemade weapons is not always up to the exacting standards required in combat.

"One night, the military... shot at us with heavy artillery," Ko John, a self-defense force member, told AFP.

With the rise of local self-defense forces, many people have fled to territory controlled by ethnic groups to receive military training.

More than 800 people have been killed by the military to date.

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