End assistance to Myanmar if violent acts against civilians do not stop

As a military exists to protect its nation’s people, it is extremely abnormal to point As a military exists to protect its nation’s people, it is extremely abnormal to point guns and artillery at those very people with no hesitation to kill them. The international community must not leave the situation unattended any longer, so that the humanitarian crisis does not become more intense.

Myanmar’s military has escalated violence against people protesting the February military coup. Heavy weapons such as mortars were used in Bago in the central part of the country, killing 82 people in a single day. The number of victims has increased by about five times over the past month compared to the figure from before this time.

A military spokesman said that in order for a tree to grow, weeds must be removed and pests must be exterminated, justifying the killing and wounding of civilians. This is an outrageous claim, beneath what should be the honor of a military.

The Myanmar armed forces are said to have been engaging in actual battles for longer than any other present-day military. It is widely believed that, since the nation’s independence in 1948, shootings and other atrocities against civilians have become common practice as the military conducts mop-up operations in remote areas controlled by ethnic minorities.

Japan’s chief of staff of the Self-Defense Forces was among the defense chiefs of 12 countries who issued an unprecedented joint statement condemning the Myanmar military’s use of force against unarmed civilians. The Myanmar military should firmly be aware that its words and actions are far removed from internationally accepted practice.

The military has faced large-scale protests in the past, but has suppressed them in a matter of weeks. This time, however, 2½ months have passed and the situation has not calmed down. It seems that the junta has misjudged the strength of the resistance among people who have experienced democratization and has become increasingly frustrated over such resistance. These factors apparently led to an expansion of its use of violent force.

The economy has fallen into a state of paralysis and the people are in need of necessities such as food and gasoline. The junta’s lack of ability to govern the nation is obvious. The people likely will no longer accept the military’s traditional prestige that it should govern the country as the “father of the nation.”

Blocking the international community’s intervention are China and Russia. China merely advocates the principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of another country, apparently in an attempt to avoid criticism of its own authoritarian rule. Russia is Myanmar’s largest arms supplier and has close ties with the junta.

The U.N. Security Council has been unable to come up with measures such as sanctions to enhance the pressure on the junta since China and Russia, who both have veto power, oppose such moves. Beijing and Moscow cannot escape some of the responsibility for the increasing harm caused by the junta’s atrocities.

Japan, unlike Western nations that have stepped up their own sanctions, has been urging the military to exercise restraint through dialogue with the junta, but no positive results have been seen.

If the situation continues to deteriorate, Japan will also be held responsible. The time has come for Japan to announce the taking of a clear stance, such as ending assistance to Myanmar if the military does not stop its violent conduct.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 16, 2021.