Controversial trip falls short of expectations . . .
Yesterday, a special envoy for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Prak Sokhonn, concluded a three-day visit to Myanmar, the association’s first official mission to the embattled country. The trip prompted nationwide protests and concerns that it would legitimize the junta government. Sokhonn met with military officials and representatives from the UN and the Red Cross, but was denied access to ousted democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is facing a litany of charges by the junta. In failing to meet with all relevant parties, Sokhonn did not fulfill one of the requirements of ASEAN’s five-point plan to end violence in the country. He announced that a meeting will be held in April on the distribution of humanitarian aid in Myanmar. While painting his trip as a step forward, he also remarked that the contending parties did not seem to want to negotiate.
Deadlier, more brutal crackdowns . . .
On the ground in Myanmar, protesters and armed groups are keeping up their fight against the junta despite being met with increasingly harsh repression. Recently, the military has reduced internet access and continues to burn down entire villages in the northwestern region. This “scorched-earth” strategy of using indiscriminate force to stamp out resistance has forced tens of thousands to flee to neighbouring towns or countries such as Thailand. However, many villagers fleeing the attacks have also gone missing or have been kidnapped by junta soldiers. Recent reports by two human rights organizations, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and Fortify Rights, detail the arrest and torture of prisoners and the crimes committed by the junta since the February 2021 coup. More than 1,700 people have been killed, and nearly 13,000 have been arrested.
US and UN take stock of Rohingya crisis . . .
Earlier this week, the Biden administration formally recognized that the Myanmar military committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the country’s Rohingya minority. Experts believe this label may lead to stronger punitive action against the military, including further sanctions on state-owned companies. However, the junta continues to receive weapons from several countries, including China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council who are likely to veto any worldwide embargo on the sale or transfer of arms. Human rights groups argue that a lack of leadership and accountability has allowed the Myanmar military to enjoy impunity for such crimes.
- Mizzima: New UN report ‘whitewashes the UN’s historical failures in Myanmar’
- Myanmar Now: As war rages on, many in Myanmar’s resistance risk a grisly death from their weapon of choice
- South China Morning Post: As Asean envoy wraps up first Myanmar visit, is the Five Point Consensus looking less viable?