Stronger intl involvement necessary to end military violence in Myanmar

As the number of victims of the military crackdown in Myanmar rises, the international community has been unable to take effective measures. It must step up its efforts to prevent the situation from developing into a threat to regional stability.

Security forces no longer hesitate to fire at the public, who continue the “disobedience movement” against the military after it seized power in a coup. On March 14 and 15, more than 90 people were killed.

Martial law has been imposed in some parts of Yangon, the largest city in the country, and the military has taken full control. By replacing the police on the front line to maintain public order, the military is probably aiming to suppress the demonstrations by March 27, the anniversary of the foundation of Myanmar’s armed forces.

Under military rule in 1988, the armed forces reportedly fired indiscriminately on prodemocracy citizens, killing thousands of people. Such a tragedy must not be repeated.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), which was ousted by the military coup, has established a provisional government to counter the military. The party is also seeking cooperation with armed ethnic minority groups that oppose the military.

If the situation is left as it is, the bloodshed will inevitably spread. There could be a de facto civil war in which a large number of refugees will flee to neighboring countries if a clash between the military and armed ethnic minority groups intensifies.

It is obvious that the issue is no longer limited to Myanmar’s domestic affairs but has worsened into a serious situation that relates to the peace and stability of the region. It is essential to strengthen the involvement of the international community.

The United States and European countries have gradually tightened their sanctions on the military, and Japan also has been trying to reduce its economic assistance. However, China and Russia have been slow to respond. The U.N. Security Council has been unable to come up with measures to pressure Myanmar because of opposition from China and Russia, which have veto power.

China and Russia cannot escape responsibility for the fact that their stance of nonintervention in another country’s “domestic issues” has led to the acceptance of military violence and a worsening of the situation.

The existence of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to which Myanmar belongs, is also being called into question. Even though the issue has shaken its foundations, ASEAN has failed to fulfill its role, only issuing a statement of foreign ministers expressing their concern over the current situation.

The ASEAN Charter places top priority on the “peace, security and stability of the region.” The influence of ASEAN itself could be impaired if the member nations are merely bound by the principles of “noninterference in domestic affairs” and “unanimous agreement.”

ASEAN needs to hold a summit meeting as soon as possible to send a clear message. It should take the initiative in normalizing the situation through such measures as asking the military to stop the violence immediately and mediating dialogue between the military and the NLD.

Japan’s response is also at a crucial stage. Japan should more strongly urge Myanmar and ASEAN for a peaceful solution through its channels with them.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 18, 2021.