Peace: A Distant Notion For Myanmar’s People

No end is in sight for conflict in Myanmar, which continues to worsen months after the Tatmadaw military coup. So far, approximately over 800 civilians have been killed since the military coup on February 1. The Tatmadaw has used highly disproportionate force, opening fire on peaceful protesters. Currently, 4,000 protestors remain in custody.

Military personnel are fighting civilian militias and various ethnic armies, which are increasingly working together to fight the Tatmadaw. Indeed, the shadow opposition announced a People’s Defence Force is to be formed to potentially unite these groups further. Fighting has intensified in Eastern Myanmar. Fighting near Shan and Kayah states has killed dozens. Near Demoso alone, one resident estimated 40,000 people had fled. This is a looming humanitarian disaster. Four civilians were killed and eight injured after they sheltered from army shelling in a church. Martial law in Mindat during recent weeks has also involved the military using civilians as human shields, destroying property and arrests of young men. This was preceded by arbitrary arrests, civilian militia retaliatory ambushes and a subsequent three day siege by the military. Women and children remain particularly vulnerable to egregious crimes. A UN report has already found that the Tatmadaw’s use of rape as a weapon was another indication of their “genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya muslim population.”

Deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose NLD Party won a landslide victory last year, appeared in court for the first time since the coup. Suu Kyi and others have been blatantly deprived of basic human rights. They were only allowed to talk to their lawyers for 30 minutes immediately before the hearing, with security personnel listening. Amongst other charges, she faces an absurd charge of illegally possessing walkie-talkies. Meanwhile, 28 people have each been sentenced to an unprecedented 20 years in jail for arson. The NLD has just been disbanded by the military on the basis of mass voter fraud. This baseless allegation is potentially a direct consequence flowing from Donald Trump’s playbook.

Meanwhile, nine out of ten states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wrote a letter opposing the draft of a non-binding UN resolution which would call for a freeze on arms sales to the regime. No reason was stated in the letter. Countries must speak out against the Tatmadaw and ensure consensus can be reached in the UN. Discrete and overt lobbying must occur to shut off the Tatmadaw’s financial and military aid. The international community cannot continue to permit impunity.