Bloodshed on the Streets of Myanmar

One month after the coup uncertainties remain . . .

More than one month after the military coup, the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar reported that yesterday’s crackdown on protesters was the deadliest so far, bringing the death toll to at least 54. The military appears to be deliberately killing civilians and even attacking medical workers treating injured protesters. The death of 19-year-old Ma Kyal Sin – whose t-shirt read ‘Everything will be OK’ when she was shot in the head by the military – has galvanized anti-coup protesters who continue to risk their lives fighting for democracy. Human rights experts have called for an investigation of the unlawful killings of peaceful protesters as possible crimes against humanity, which were committed by the same military responsible for atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities for decades.

Who represents Myanmar?

Last week, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations declared his support for anti-coup protesters and urged the international community to recognize the CRPH, a group of lawmakers that won seats in last November’s election, as the legitimate government of Myanmar. On Tuesday, ASEAN’s informal virtual meeting ended without any agreement on joint action despite recognition that member states cannot ignore the conflict in Myanmar. With the junta and the CRPH’s parallel government both claiming to represent the country, the UN and ASEAN face a significant diplomatic challenge that will affect how the two organizations engage with Myanmar and shape its future. The UN Security Council will likely deliberate on Myanmar on Friday in a closed-door meeting.

Future in the hands of the people . . .

In the streets of Myanmar, many protesters continue to appeal for foreign intervention. However, there is no indication that Western countries will take this route, preferring to resort to targeted sanctions. Many companies and business associations have also halted their operations in Myanmar to cut money flows to the military generals. But pressuring the junta to relinquish its hold on power will take time and commitment. So far, the generals have said that they are ready to weather the economic isolation. With violent repression expected to continue, people’s resilience will be put to the test in the upcoming weeks, and likely longer.