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Rohingya Human Rights Activist Speaks On Situation In Myanmar


We're going to look now at what the military coup in Myanmar means for Rohingya people. They are a persecuted ethnic and religious minority. A violent military campaign a few years ago forced hundreds of thousands of them out of their homes and into Bangladesh, and the coup has made their already desperate situation even worse. We're joined now by Rohingya human rights activist Wai Wai Nu, who is currently in the U.S.


WAI WAI NU: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what you're hearing from Rohingya people in Myanmar right now.

NU: So the Rohingya people in Myanmar and refugees in Bangladesh are terrified to see the military who committed genocide against our people come back with full power. It's been very frustrating and terrifying for them.

SHAPIRO: And yet, is their hope? Because so many people are marching in the streets against the military, is there a sense that the people of Myanmar might support this cause?

NU: So yes, there are so many people - many of our colleagues and friends and civil society leaders, activists - are joining the protests. However, it doesn't necessarily mean we are building solidarity for the Rohingya or the root causes will be addressed immediately because we have to be mindful that there are so much more than the military coup or the fight between the military leadership and then the Aung San Suu Kyi leadership. There are many other fundamental problems that we are facing as a country, which include the deep ethnic divisions and prejudice against the minority ethnic groups. The coup is just one deep problem of the country.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what specifically you would like to see from the international community, given the difficult situation that Rohingya people are in right now.

NU: In this difficult time, we don't want to just talk about Rohingya. I think we have to look at the situation in a more comprehensive way. This very same military were not held accountable for their crimes of genocide or even war crimes against other ethnic communities even before 2010 political transition. So all of this impunity that they have enjoyed emboldened them to carry out the coup. So the question now is, is the world going to allow this genocide suspect to rule the country again?

SHAPIRO: So tell us what specifically you would like to see from the international community. Is it diplomacy? Is it sanctions? Is it something else?

NU: As activists and human rights defenders, we are calling for immediate response from the international community that include cooperative international sanctions against the military leaders and members of the families, as well as their businesses. The Biden administration has actually imposed the sanctions on the military leaders and their family members, as well as some of their businesses. But it should extend to the major military-owned companies. And also, we are calling for other diplomatic and political pressures, including the U.N. Security Council, to send a monitoring and mediations body to Myanmar so that there is a negotiation process happening.

SHAPIRO: If the military is able to retain power, do you fear that there will be a second wave of Rohingya leaving Myanmar?

NU: It is very likely to happen because military need to scapegoat someone so that they can redirect the people attention to what other - another enemy of the state. So they need to create another enemy of the state. And we are very concerned that it can happen again. How can we guarantee, you know, this military who committed such gross international crimes - how can we guarantee a non-recurrence of such crime while the same people are going to rule the country?

SHAPIRO: That's Rohingya human rights activist Wai Wai Nu.

Thank you for talking with us.

NU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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