Rohingya conscripts: pawns in civil war

Rohingya conscripts: victims of ethnic cleansing now forced pawns in civil war

  • Published on
    April 8, 2024
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  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Slavery In conflict
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Rohingyas living in the Rakhine State of Myanmar are being forcibly conscripted into the ruling military junta’s army according to the BBC – an army that not only doesn’t recognize their right to live in Myanmar, but has also committed what the UN called “textbook ethnic cleansing” against Rohingyas nearly seven years ago.

Faced with heavy losses, the embattled junta is using forced military service to fill its ranks in its ongoing civil war.

Forced to fight for a regime that wants them dead

In 2012, headlines were filled with accounts of the tens of thousands of Rohingyas who were being driven out of their communities in Myanmar and forced to live in squalid refugee camps. Then, five years later, the army launched a brutal campaign killing and raping thousands of Rohingyas and burning their villages, creating a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands fled to neighboring Bangladesh seeking safety.

Today, the Rohingyas that remain in Myanmar are still denied citizenship and are subjected to multiple types of discriminatory restrictions. But that hasn’t deterred the embattled military from entering the camps where Rohingyas have been forced to live since 2012, and forcibly conscripting the men who live there.

Mohammed, a 31-year-old Rohingya man with three young children said:

“I was frightened, but I had to go, the camp leader said, ‘If you refuse, they threatened to harm your family’.”

The BBC reports that at least 100 Rohingyas have been forcibly conscripted and that several Rohingyas confirmed army officers have been going around the camps and ordering the younger men to report for military training.

Mohammed had to be driven to the base he was ordered to report to as Rohingyas have been prohibited from living in the town since they were driven out in 2012. There he trained for two weeks in how to load bullets and shoot, and how to disassemble and reassemble his gun, along with other forced conscripts from his camp.

From genocide to cannon fodder

At the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Myanmar is facing a genocide trial over its treatment of the Rohingyas. And now, adding insult to injury, the Rohingyas fear they are being used as “cannon fodder in a war the junta seems to be losing.” Most citizens in Myanmar are unwilling to risk their lives propping up an unpopular regime, so the increasingly desperate junta is leaving the Rohingyas with little choice but to fill in the gaps.

Matthew Smith, from the human rights group Fortify Rights said:

“There’s a brutal and perverse utility to what’s happening…This regime has no regard for human life. It’s now layering these abuses on top of its long history of atrocities and impunity.”

When Mohammed was deployed along with 250 other soldiers and transported five hours up-river he fought for 11 days in a fierce battle for control of three hilltop military bases. He said he had no idea why he was fighting, that he was terrified and just kept thinking about his family, never having dreamt he would have to go to war.

Smith calls the current conscription campaign unlawful and “more akin to forced labor”.

When camp residents asked the soldiers sent to conscript them why they should be subjected to military service when they are denied citizenship they were told “they had a duty to defend the place where they lived.”

Mohammed was injured in the battle but was given a certificate by the army after his service, stating that he has fought in battle on their side. But what value it has or if it will exempt him from further military service is unknown and he lives in fear of being forced to fight again saying, “This time I came back because I was lucky, but next time I am not sure what will happen.”



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1 month ago

What a savage, cruel government the military junta in Myanmar, who makes war against its own people! Why the world keeps quiet about this? and without Russia and China’s complicity, this could not go on since so many years…

1 month ago

Non è giusta la guerra a meno che non ci si difenda

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