End the Violence
Backlash from the international community was obvious but what the Myanmar military appeared to have grossly underestimated when it staged a coup d’état on February 1 by detaining President Hyun Kyaw Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders was the power of the common people. After refusing to accept the result of the November 2020 general election, which was won by the National League for Democracy, claiming irregularities and the subsequent coup the Tatmadaw (official name of the armed forces of Myanmar) applied the same strategy – violence and fear – it had employed in the past to subdue public protests. Unlike in the past, this generation that has tasted limited liberties is uncompromising in its stance to uphold democracy and dreads going back to the dark days of military rule. Violence has been unleashed on peaceful protestors for weeks now and at least 459 people have been reportedly killed since the coup according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last week that killed 114 people, including some children amid international pressure has sent out a clear message that the Tatmadaw is unremorseful and could do anything to suppress the resistance. Instead of being cowed down by threats and gun power, the voice of the people especially that of the youth is getting louder and protests are gaining momentum. But patience will wear thin from both the military and the protestors with time. The ultimate result will be loss of more civilian lives, bloodshed and chaos.
Should the world just criticise and haplessly watch unarmed peaceful protestors being killed from afar? The UN Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sunday said in a joint statement that the international community “should take timely and collective action in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations to protect civilian populations that are at risk of atrocity crimes”. They stated that the world shares the responsibility of protecting the people from massacre. Several Western countries have been vocal in condemning the coup, with the United States and the United Kingdom taking the lead by imposing sanctions on Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Ltd. and Myanmar Economic Corporation Ltd., two major conglomerates of the Myanmar military. It was a welcome move but such steps may end up affecting the general public more than the army, which is why collective action from the international community is needed. The Asean countries as well as big neighbours like China and India should play a bigger role in persuading the junta to immediately stop violence, release the arrested leaders and come to the negotiating table to restore peace. The world should realise that “Everything is not ok” at the moment but if all the countries speak in one voice for peace, “Everything will be ok” as written on the T-shirt of teenager Ma Kyal Sin, known as Angel, who was shot dead during a protest earlier this month. The world shares the collective responsibility of persuading the Myanmar military to stop bloodshed, listen to the citizens of the country, respect the mandate of the people and restore democracy.