Violent Crackdown Of Protesters Intensifies In Myanmar, As UN Chief Warns It Could Become The Next Syria

Brutal repression and crackdown on dissenting voices in Myanmar continue as the death toll reaches 739—including 44 children—since February 1st, 2021. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a monitoring group in Myanmar, suggests the number is even believed to be higher than the recorded list. The group has reported that of April 21, a total of 3,331 people remain under arrest, with 76 of them having been convicted [I].

The repression of the military has also caused displacements of thousands of people in bordering countries, such as Thailand and China. Creating a social panorama in the South-East Asian country that may potentially lead to a full-blown humanitarian crisis. UN human rights commissioners, Michelle Bachelet, warned on April 14, that the situation in Myanmar is “on the verge of escalating into a full-fledged conflict’’ echoing it closely to the bloody civil war in Syria [II].

On the morning of 1 February 2021, newly elected representatives of Myanmar’s governing party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), were deposed by the Tatmadaw military. The Tatmadaw declared a one-year state of emergency and declared that power had been transferred to Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing [III]. The military cited systematic fraud in last November’s general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide, as a justification for destabilizing Suu Kyi’s government [III].

Protests against the coup have been the most widespread since the so-called Saffron Revolution of 2007, in which thousands of monks rose against the military regime. Teachers, lawyers, students, bank officers, and government employees are among those who have taken to the streets to protest [IV]. Protesters have manifested in different peaceful ways, including using pro-democracy symbols and slogans on traditional flower pots, as well as using a three-fingered salute that has come to symbolize Myanmar’s resistance movement [V]. The military regime, however, has taken disproportionate use of force against protesters, with the youngest victim being a 6-year-old girl that was shot dead by a military coup while she ran for her father during a raid in the city of Mandalay [VI].

Many protestors, as well as other citizens, have called for international involvement to assist them under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which was developed to address issues such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, after the failed attempts of preventing the Ruanda Genocide [VII].

The UN and the international community have denounced the military coup as a threat to democracy and human rights. The US and the EU have taken the first step by imposing sanctions on 11 individuals involved in the military coup and the crackdown of peaceful demonstrators [VIII]. But the situation in Myanmar is requiring greater actions. Cutting up their arms supplies and the military’s finances might be useful. However, further international assistance and Security Council actions are very much needed.