Toron­to­ni­ans fear­ful for their fam­i­lies in Myan­mar

Es­ca­la­tion has forced ex­ile upon hun­dreds of thou­sands

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - TORONTO - Gil­bert ngabo metro | Toronto

Zaw Kyaw’s im­me­di­ate fam­ily moved to Toronto many years ago, but his un­cles, aunts and cousins are still in Myan­mar, trapped among the ris­ing vi­o­lence.

“It is like a night­mare,” he said about wit­ness­ing the es­ca­la­tion from afar. One of his cousins was re­cently caught up in the chaos in Rakhine, an epi­cen­tre of the fight­ing since late last month.

“She was so scared when I spoke to her on the phone the next day. She said many peo­ple are hid­ing in forests wait­ing for any kind of res­cue.”

Kyaw is one of thou­sands of Myan­mar-Cana­di­ans watch­ing des­per­ately as their na­tive coun­try de­scends into vi­o­lence. More than 370,000 Ro­hingyas have fled the coun­try in fear of bru­tal mil­i­tary rule, and re­ports from the United Na­tions warn of eth­nic cleans­ing.

Hu­man-rights or­ga­ni­za­tions have ac­cused the gov­ern­ment’s mil­i­tary of set­ting vil­lages on fire and killing hun­dreds of civil­ians. The Ro­hingya — a Mus­lim mi­nor­ity group in a coun­try dom­i­nated by Bud­dhism — have en­dured years of dis­crim­i­na­tion, as the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment con­tends they are il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh.

“Both Mus­lims and nonMus­lims used to live to­gether in peace,” Kyaw said. “There is no rea­son we shouldn’t co-ex­ist.”

Kyaw is part of the Cana­dian Burma Eth­nic Na­tion­al­i­ties Or­ga­ni­za­tion, which re­cently wrote to Canada’s for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter to ap­peal for an in­ter­ven­tion to pro­tect civil­ians’ lives, re­gard­less of their re­li­gion.

“We ask you to please do some­thing in the name of hu­man­ity and fair­ness,” reads part of the let­ter, dated Aug. 31.

Ti­mothy Thu, who moved to Toronto about 10 years ago and main­tains reg­u­lar con­tact with fam­ily mem­bers back in Myan­mar, said the rest of the world should come to the res­cue of this most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion.

“I ran away and es­caped from my coun­try,” he said, not­ing the Myan­mar di­as­pora is press­ing lo­cal MPs to speak up on be­half of their coun­try. “We can­not go back to the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment. No one wants any more civil war.”

Zaw Kyaw is con­cerned about the safety of his fam­ily mem­bers in Myan­mar. Ed­uardo Lima/mETro

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