Rogue Burmese Military Attacks on Christians Facilitated by China and Russia

The world should respond with sanctions and NATO peacekeepers
November 4, 2021 Updated: November 6, 2021


Burma’s rogue military, the Tatmadaw, is attacking Christian villages. Sanctions should be swifter and stronger.

Having largely ignored genocides against the Uyghurs, Falun Gong, Tibetans, Rohingya, and Tigray, the next up could be Christians in Burma (Myanmar).

In Burma’s north-west Chin state, the Tatmadaw soldiers have burned as many as 300 buildings, according to reporting by the Financial Times and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

These terrorist tactics are similar to those used by the Tatmadaw in the 2017 assault on the Rohingya in Burma’s Rakhine state. Those attacks, and the result, have variously been recognized as ethnic cleansing or genocide, by the U.N. definition. Tens of thousands were raped and murdered, causing mass flight and almost a million refugees who are now in legal limbo, mostly just over the border with Bangladesh.

A few days ago on Oct. 29, the Tatmadaw used heavy artillery against the Chin town of Thantland, then sent in soldiers who used “firebombs,” according to a source. Ethnic Chin sources, the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), and others allege that the soldiers looted the township, burned as many as 300 buildings, including some churches and the local office of Save the Children, a charity.

Most of the town’s 10,000 residents fled the assault. Only an orphanage and its caretakers remain, according to a resident who spoke to RFA.

The NUG Internal Affairs and Immigration Minister alleges that since Feb. 1, the soldiers had not only fired heavy artillery, looted, and burned homes, but also arrested civilians, tortured, raped, and killed them.

These atrocities are similar to those the Tatmadaw used against the Rohingya to carry out their ethnic cleansing and genocide. According to research led by economist Mohshin Habib, “85 per cent of participants [in a poll of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh] reported witnessing the burning down of their own or neighbours’ homes. When family members are included, an estimated 115,000 Rohingya were beaten by Myanmar authorities [and] an estimated 42,000 Rohingya received gunshot wounds. An estimated 35,000 Rohingya people were thrown into fire. An estimated 24,800 Rohingya people were murdered. An estimated 18,500 women and adolescents were raped.”

Due to increasing repression against democracy advocates following the coup on Feb. 1, the NUG declared a national state of emergency on Sept. 7 and called for a rebellion against the ruling junta.

On Sept. 28, a month prior to the most recent assault, troops burned 18 homes and a hotel in Thantland, a stronghold of the resistance. The town has approximately 3,000 dwellings.

Since the coup, the regime has allegedly killed over 1,200 civilians and arrested over 7,000.

A general view of a Rohingya refugee camp after a fire burned down all the shelters in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on March 23, 2021. (Ro Yassin Abdumonab/Reuters)

The Chin ethnic minority in Burma is mostly Christian. Successive military regimes have targeted them with violence. Since the coup, thousands have fled the Chin state for India.

During their past atrocities, the Tatmadaw have attempted to blame the victim, by pointing to relatively small-scale violence that supposedly precipitated the mass-scale violence of the military. After the latest attacks in Thantland, as well as those against the Rohingya, the Tatmadaw claimed that the victims themselves burned down their own homes.

China and Russia are Burma’s biggest arms suppliers, and are likely to block U.N. Security Council action against the ongoing atrocities in Burma. Beijing and Moscow offer the Burmese regime export markets should it be sanctioned economically, which, along with their military and diplomatic support, provides an economic safety net for the Tatmadaw.

China is the top trade partner of Burma, and its second-largest investor. During Burma’s military rule between 1988 and 2010, China maintained normal diplomatic relations with the junta.

The Jamestown Foundation has called the Chinese and Burmese regimes a “marriage of convenience.” Beijing blocked a U.N. Security Council condemnation of the coup and refrained from criticizing Burma’s human rights violations at the U.N. Human Rights Council. Last winter, Beijing said, “What happens in Myanmar is essentially Myanmar’s internal affairs.”

Human Rights Watch has called the town’s burning a “crime against humanity,” and the spokesperson of the U.S. State Department said the “abhorrent attacks underscore the urgent need for the international community to hold the Burmese military accountable and take action to prevent gross violations and abuses of human rights, including preventing the transfer of arms to the military.”

But vague words about U.N. action, which will never happen, are not enough. Especially against a genocidal regime that is increasingly allied with Beijing, any proposed action at the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow and Beijing have veto power, would be useless.

The United States and allies should, instead, impose an effective arms embargo, Magnitsky sanctions, and economic sanctions against Burma’s rogue regime for not only atrocities in Chin state and the coup, but for the genocide against the Rohingya.

If sanctions would only send Burma further into the embrace of China, as many analysts predict, then the most effective remaining strategy is an international peacekeeping force in both the Chin and Rakhine states, led by NATO, and with the full participation of allies such as Japan, Australia, India, and Bangladesh.

International peacekeepers, including boots on the ground in Burma, are about the only way to protect vulnerable minority civilians under attack by their own supposed government.

The real international community of democracies and their allies have a responsibility to protect (R2P) the good citizens of Burma, who are under attack and in need of the world’s assistance.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).