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By Wai Wai Nu: A human rights and democracy activist, a former political prisoner, and the founder and executive director of the Women’s Peace Network in Myanmar.

Since the February 1 coup in Myanmar, the military has unfurled a brutal nationwide crackdown targeting protesters and civilians who oppose their unlawful rule. Indeed, last week’s stinging rebuke of the military coup by the United Nations General Assembly — only the fourth such resolution since the end of the Cold War — offers a stark reminder of what’s at stake. 

Two opposing bodies have been formed in the coup’s wake. The military junta’s State Administration Council (SAC), ruling with savagery and corruption, and the National Unity Government (NUG), established by the duly elected lawmakers whose parliament was overthrown. It includes representatives from a diverse array of pro-democracy movements, organizations, and parties, and has impressively challenged the military junta with a vision for a democratic, federal union.

Given years of systematic disenfranchisement by the military and the civilian-led government, the Rohingya Muslim community has eagerly awaited the NUG’s position on the rights of the Rohingya. The signs so far are promising: Earlier in June, it acknowledged past abuses, pledging to replace discriminatory laws and work to bring the million-plus Rohingya refugees home. 

As a member of the Rohingya community and an advocate for human rights for all, I am encouraged by these steps, but they should be considered a floor, not a ceiling. Citizens of Myanmar and members of the international community should press the NUG to capitalize on this landmark juncture — in which members of the country’s ethnic and religious communities are rising up together against the military’s violence and repression — to fully guarantee that Rohingya, as well as all other ethnic nationalities, will be entitled to rights as both individual citizens and as a group. This is critical for building a truly democratic Myanmar, where all peoples can live free from violence, discrimination, and abuse. 

The military has long pitted ethnic groups against one another, and we have all suffered because of it. Every time a Kachin village is bombed, a Mon child denied the right to learn their native tongue, a Kaman fisherman refused his livelihood, a Karen woman raped, a Rohingya village burned down, a Hindu teenager denied an identity card, we are all harmed. 

Source: The Diplomat