It has been eight months since the military junta in Myanmar were able to seize power in a coup, detaining members of the government, and declaring a year-long state of emergency. The aftermath of that coup has been eight months of violence, labeled by The Diplomat as an “all-out war in the making.” On September 23rd, The Guardian reported that more than 1,100 people have been killed by military forces and approximately 8000 have been detained. According to the BBC, this indicates a systematic, targeted killing of pro-democracy protestors. As resistance to the military coup has increased, the military junta has responded with violent crackdowns on entire villages. Al Jazeera reported that since April, human rights groups have recorded mass killings in several villages. Moreover, the number of casualties remains unclear because the military has blocked the internet in the region.
The UN special rapporteur Thomas Andrews said that the situation in the past eight months shows the “living hell” people have endured since February 1st. The effects of the coup have been particularly brutal for young people under 30, who according to a 2014 consensus make up more than 50% of Myanmar’s population. “If the junta beats this revolution, our future is gone,” says Wai, who, as reported by The Guardian, saw a fellow protester shot dead in Okkalapa on March 8th. Another pro-democracy protester told The Guardian that, “If the Junta wins, I won’t marry or have children because I wouldn’t want my family to live under their control. We’ll protest as much as we can until we win. It is worth giving your life for the next generation.” This comes after the UN reported that the junta is systematically abducting the relatives of people it is seeking to arrest, including children as young as 20 weeks old.
On September 22nd, Andrews told the United Nations Human Rights Council that conditions in the country were deteriorating and “current efforts by the international community to stop the downward spiral of events in Myanmar are not working.” His speech was followed by the release of a report by the United Nations Human Rights Office, which warned of a “human rights catastrophe” and said the junta’s actions since the coup amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has urged countries to push the military to stop its violent repression against citizens stating that the world “must not allow the deadly mistakes of the past in Syria and elsewhere to be repeated.”
Regarding international action, it was reported by Al Jazeera on September 25th that “no official representing Myanmar would speak during the UN General Assembly meeting, in an apparent compromise that would deny a global platform to the country’s warring democratic and militarist factions.” This comes after both the military junta and the country’s ousted government launched bids to fill the country’s seat. Anti-coup campaigners have warned that a decision that favours the military could further empower the junta, they welcomed the decision not to give the military junta recognition. According to The Guardian some observers found that “leaving Myanmar’s chair empty is the pragmatic solution” while others argued that the international community should do more to stop the Junta’s violence.
There is no doubt that the current situation in Myanmar is dire, but it is also important to reflect on the resilience of the young protectors in the country. As reported by the BBC, since 2015 there has been a build-up in momentum, and now there is a climax in the role of young people. Civil Society organizations have stated how important it is for the international community to recognize the extraordinary movement of the protestors but also highlighted the need to encourage protests to use nonviolent methods to resist the regime as the danger of violent opposition is a full-blown civil war. As Bachelet has indicated the international community must use political pressure to stop the military’s brutal violence and more importantly they must continue supporting the citizens of Myanmar and the civil society organizations fighting for a peaceful resolution.