Myanmar’s military has maintained a hard-line stance and is further accelerating the move to make its rule an established fact. The international community must not neglect the situation.
The military has consistently claimed the legitimacy of the coup in February in which it seized power and continues to clamp down on the country’s pro-democracy camp, which had been in power until then. Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the pro-democracy administration, remains in detention.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plans to send a special envoy to help mediate dialogue between the military and the pro-democracy camp, but the visit has yet to be realized because the military refuses to allow the envoy to contact Suu Kyi.
This could be interpreted as a sign that the military is attempting to completely remove democracy from politics and strengthen its dictatorship.
Increasingly frustrated, ASEAN has decided not to invite Myanmar’s military chief to a summit meeting slated for late October. However, this decision may not put a great deal of pressure on the military when it is gaining more confidence in its governance.
In September, the pro-democracy camp declared an armed struggle against the military to defend itself, but there is an obvious gap in their war capabilities. Rather, this could give the military an excuse to increase its oppression of the pro-democracy camp.
A senior member of the pro-democracy camp has explained that the armed uprising is necessary at a time when the international community’s pressure on the military has not been effective. It is undeniable that the international community’s interest in Myanmar is waning as more attention is now being given to the situation in Afghanistan.
The situation surrounding the people of Myanmar is deteriorating. Many civilians have been embroiled in the fighting, and more than 200,000 people are believed to have fled their homes. The military is controlling information, such as by blocking the internet, making it more likely that the actual situation is more serious than believed.
The sharp decline in foreign investment and the plunge in the value of Myanmar’s currency following the political upheaval have led to soaring prices in daily necessities and an increase in unemployment. What is in question now is whether the international community can intervene to stop the humanitarian crisis.
China and Russia, which support Myanmar’s military, have a great responsibility. The two countries also oppose putting pressure on the military in the U.N. Security Council. In light of concerns over a massive outflow of refugees and civil war, they are not allowed to stand idle on the grounds of noninterference in domestic affairs.
The Group of Seven industrialized nations should not rely only on ASEAN’s diplomacy through mediation but also act on their own initiative. Japan, the United States and Europe need to strengthen their cooperation while working on China and Russia in a bid to urge Myanmar’s military to change its behavior.
If Japan emphasizes its channels with Myanmar’s military, it must convey a strong message that leads to self-restraint, rather than merely expressing concern.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 18, 2021.