Myanmar’s military, which overthrew the democratic government in a coup, is expanding its “rule by force” by taking advantage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The international community must not sit idly by.
More than a year has passed since the coup, and the pro-democracy elements have been driven into a difficult position. In urban areas, Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the democratic government, and other senior officials have been detained and their political activities have been blocked. Citizen protests have also been suppressed by the military.
In remote areas, ethnic minority militants have cooperated with some pro-democracy forces to exchange fire with the military. In response, the commander-in-chief of the military declared in a speech that he considered the opposition forces “terrorists” and would “annihilate” them all.
The military commemorative ceremony at which the speech was delivered featured weapons, including fighter jets, tanks and missile-equipped vehicles. The aim was apparently to show off the overwhelming power of the military and make people who are resisting lose the will to fight.
It is obvious that the Ukrainian crisis is behind the military’s hard-line stance.
There has been no change in that both Russia and the Myanmar military are trying to make their rule a fait accompli by using military power to inflict blows and instil fear into their opponents. They are in the same situation in that the pressure from the international community’s sanctions is being thwarted.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur noted that China and Russia continue to provide weapons to the Myanmar military and urged the U.N. Security Council to take action, but the situation has not improved. This is because the Security Council is unable to come up with measures to pressure the military due to opposition from permanent members China and Russia.
The Myanmar military itself has been cracking down on the people, rather than protecting them. Since the coup, the death toll from military violence has exceeded 1,700 and the number of refugees has reached 500,000. China and Russia bear an extremely heavy responsibility.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also been unable to make its presence felt. It had agreed with the Myanmar military to send a special envoy to resolve the situation, but it took nearly a year to realize the agreement.
In addition, the envoy only met with the commander-in-chief and other senior military officials, but was not allowed to meet with Suu Kyi, thus failing to play a mediating role at all. The military has also not complied with the immediate cessation of violence that was supposed to have been agreed upon with ASEAN.
The situation in Myanmar is shaking ASEAN’s founding principle of “regional peace and stability.” ASEAN should force the military to change its behavior with a view to imposing sanctions on Myanmar or even expelling the country from its membership.
In Afghanistan, as well, the oppressive rule of the Taliban regime has been pointed out. Even while the eyes of the world are focused on the crisis in Ukraine, there is a need to continue paying attention to the people suffering in Myanmar and Afghanistan.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 1, 2022)