Speaking to FNA, Myra Dahgaypaw said according to the constitution, Suu Kyi needs the military’s approval to remain in power, and added, “Instead of standing up for the civilians, particularly the most vulnerable population that are effected by Burma army’s brutality, she cooperates with the army […] Rape, torture, killing, and even the blocking of humanitarian access to IDPs happen under her watch and she is quiet.”
She also rebuked army’s measures against Myanmar’s minority groups, saying, “Their strategy to drive out and displace millions of indigenous people with constant warfare is for personal gain and business purposes.”
“The non-Bamar people live in mountainous parts of the country that is full of natural resources… Instead of protecting the local indigenous people, the Burma army takes what they want and sells to foreign investors,” she added.
Myra Dahgaypaw, Managing Director for US Campaign for Burma, is a human rights activist from Myanmar’s Karen State, Eastern Burma. She was an internally displaced person and a refugee. Previously, she worked as a human rights advocate at the United Nations with the Burma Fund United Nations Office. Myra Dahgaypaw has played a strong role in her community as an organizer and a human rights advocate.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Q: Why is Myanmar’s army acting against the civilians of the country which themselves belong to?
A: The Burma army is against the people of the country, firstly, due to their nationalism, religion, and Burmese identity. Burma has been led and ruled by nationalist Buddhists since the country's independence in 1948. Burma’s independence leader Aung San understood the need for what he called "unity in diversity." However, Burmese leaders who followed him attempted to tap into Buddhist nationalism for their own political agendas.
Secondly, the Burma army is against the other ethnic groups because of power and greed. Their doctrine is based on total submission to authority. Otherwise, you are classified as the enemy like other ethnic groups who seek greater autonomy including Rohingya. Their strategy to drive out and displace millions of indigenous people with constant warfare is for personal gain and business purposes. The non-Bamar people live in mountainous parts of the country that is full of natural resources, such as natural gas, jade, gems, and timbers. Instead of protecting the local indigenous people, the Burma army takes what they want and sells to foreign investors. The Burma army has never been sincere about attaining peace or the ceasefire agreement. They only go through the motions of a ceasefire in order to bring everything and everyone to a standstill, manage the conflict through ceasefires, and enrich its officers.
Q: Why does Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, remain quiet about the army’s deeds?
A: Aung San Suu Kyi plays her own game. She is not afraid of the army, but defended them instead. Her silence on the human rights abuses on the ethnic minorities is partly due to her own racist prejudice against the ethnic minorities, more noticeably the Rohingya population. After all, she is a Bamar Buddhist, the ruler majority.
Aung San Suu Kyi identifies herself as a politician in 2015, which means she wants to govern and remain in power. In doing so, she has to be an ally of the military, because she needs the military’s votes according to the 2008 constitution. However, the scariest part is the military benefits from her silence. Instead of standing up for the civilians, particularly the most vulnerable population that are effected by Burma army’s brutality, she cooperates with the army. Rape, torture, killing, and even the blocking of humanitarian access to IDPs happen under her watch and she is quiet. Activists are arrested and others face restrictions in press freedom. She allows the army to use the most up-to-date weapon to fight against non-state armed groups in order to gain control.
Q: Why does the Western mainstream media overlook the minorities’ issues in Myanmar, in spite of their claim that human rights issues are prioritized within their coverage?
A: Mainstream media in the West does not have much interest in ethnic minorities’ issues. Besides, they consider ethnic issues “too complicated.” Therefore, they might have to spend the first half of their article explaining who everyone is and why, which they do not want to do. They rather prefer unique issues that are easier to write within a much shorter time. Mass atrocities, war crimes, and crimes against humanity have been going in Kachin, Shan, Karenni, Karen, Mon, Arakan, and Chin state for decades. Thousands and thousands of civilians have been killed or displaced and some have to seek refuge in other countries. These are not unique stories for them anymore. The reason they picked up on the Rohingya issue is because it is a newer issue that has happened more intensively in the past few years. Worse now is they are occupied with COVID-19. No matter how much the Burma army uses heavy artillery against the civilians, the mainstream media does not pay attention to any of the Arakan state offensives.