April 11, 2021

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Myanmar violence escalates. What to know

5 min read

A protester stands near a burning makeshift barricade during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

Myanmar has descended into chaos as protestors show no signs of backing down against the Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy party head. The protestors have been met with brutal force.

A U.N. special envoy warned of an imminent “bloodbath” if the military doesn’t end its brutal crackdown, which has taken the lives of hundreds so far.

In the latest move, the military has shutdown broadband internet services, according to Reuters.

The military is killing peaceful protestors

The crisis started with a coup to overturn an election

In November elections, Suu Kyi’s NLD won enough seats to form a government, but the Myanmar military, citing irregularities, contested the results.

On Feb. 1, the military ousted the seated government, detaining Suu Kyi and other NLD party members. Since then, Suu Kyi has been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies and a natural disaster violation for breaching Covid-19 protocols.

Most recently, she was hit with an official secrets act charge, the most serious to date. If convicted, the prison sentence could be as much as 14 years. According to a Myanmar free expression website, the law “was created by the British colonial government in 1923 to criminalize the sharing of almost any kind of information held by the government.”

Local media reported more than 600 detainees were released after being charged with various alleged infractions in attempts to appease protestors. Suu Kyi and party members remain behind bars.

Myanmar is no stranger to military rule. The country was run by the totalitarian Burma Socialist Programme Party for much of the last century. The country is also known as Burma.

In 1988, a student-led revolution against the military became a nationwide movement with Suu Kyi emerging as its leader. In 1990, Suu Kyi’s NLD won the country’s general election, the first since 1960, but the military placed the elected officials under house arrest. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Suu Kyi remained in some form of detention for nearly 15 years. In 2015, in Myanmar’s first democratic elections in 25 years, she led her party to victory.

Her international reputation has suffered in recent years after she defended Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority. But she remains popular among the country’s Buddhist majority.

The U.S. and its allies have imposed sanctions

There are calls for UN sanctions, but China and Russia could stand in the way

The United Nations has yet to introduce sanctions against Myanmar. Several individuals in high-ranking positions have spoken out about the ongoing violence.

The U.N.’s envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, called on the Security Council on Wednesday to take collective action, warning that “a bloodbath is imminent” in Myanmar.

The U.N. in a tweet recommended its employees leave the country temporarily.

A group of more than 130 human rights organizations and nonprofit groups have called for the Security Council and U.N. member states to impose a global arms embargo against Myanmar.

However, Russia and China sit on the Security Council and hold veto power over any U.N. effort to impose sanctions or embargoes.

The Security Council issued a statement in early March which called on the military to exercise restraint and expressed support for Myanmar’s democratic transition. However, Russia, China, India and Vietnam requested the removal of the word “coup” and the threat of further action, according to Reuters.

China has been largely neutral as it holds close ties with both the ousted NLD and the military junta. However, Chinese interests would be threatened by sanctions on Myanmar’s resources, mining and energy companies, according to the Institut Montaigne, a French nonprofit think tank.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin met with Myanmar Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw in an effort to strengthen ties with the military, according to Reuters. Fomin said Myanmar was a strategic partner and ally, despite clear human rights abuses.

2021-04-01 17:40:00

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