Saturday was the bloodiest day yet since the coup took place. When will the world stand up and do anything beyond offer words of condemnation?
At least 114 people were killed Saturday during protests that took place across 44 towns and cities in the country, according to a tally by the independent Myanmar Now news outlet. The number of deaths has not been confirmed by international media outlets at this time. The slaughter of civilian protesters has been met with global condemnation.
Fuelling additional outrage, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his generals threw a lavish party Saturday night for Armed Forces Day.
Two top UN officials condemned Myanmar’s military junta following the bloodiest day of protests yet against the military coup that overthrew the country’s elected government on Februrary 1, as defiant protesters returned again on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, funerals were held, with some reports the military had tried to intervene in the mourning. The funerals of protesters killed by the military forces have themselves become a symbol of protest.
In a joint statement, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, bluntly called on the Myanmar military and its security forces to “immediately stop killing the very people it has the duty to serve and protect.”
The UN officials also “strongly condemned the Myanmar military’s widespread, lethal, increasingly systematic attacks against peaceful protesters, as well as other serious violations of human rights since it seized power on 1 February 2021.”
The UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said the army was carrying out “mass murder” and called on the world to isolate the junta and halt its access to weapons. Mr Andrews has been particularly outspoken about the need for action, not hollow words, in the face of atrocities committed by the Myanmar military junta. Some of his statements over the past two days are shown below:
Following a day that brought the total killed since the coup to well over 400, the defence chiefs of a dozen nations on Sunday issued a rare joint statement condemning the military’s actions.
The US, UK, Japan, and Australia were also among the signatories of a statement that said: “A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting — not harming — the people it serves.”
International condemnation has been swift and loud, with the notable exception of Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbours, which have at times been mildly critical, but have stopped short of the full-throated outrage lobbed by Western governments. Calls are also growing for Myanmar to be expelled from ASEAN, largely from individual lawmakers across the region. Such calls (including from Tun Dr Mahathir) were also made over Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority a few years ago. But now, as then, expulsion from the 10-country bloc seems very unlikely.
Increasingly, however, observers are wondering when the world will do more than just issue statements. A few countries have sanctioned the military leaders in Myanmar, but beyond that, the citizens of the country have largely been left on their own.
For their own part, however, these brave people are not planning to give up anytime soon.
According to Moe Myint of BBC Burmese, “Neither side — the military nor the pro-democracy movement — is willing to back down. The military thinks it can terrorise people to achieve ‘stability and security.’ But the movement on the streets, led by young people, is determined to rid the country of the military dictatorship once and for all.”
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