A broader level of internationally enforced sanctions is needed in Myanmar

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Footage broadcast by Radio Free Asia showed police charging at protesters, grabbing one and smashing him in the head. Stones were then thrown at the police before the shots were fired.

“Three got shot – one woman in the womb, one man on his cheek, and one man on his arm,” said Myanmar Red Cross official Kyaw Myint, who witnessed the clash.

“The crowd is still growing,” he added.

Unrest has gripped Myanmar, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets daily in defiance of the country’s military after it overthrew the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, in a coup d’état on February 1.

The move came following a landslide election victory by Suu Kyi’s NLD party in November. Myanmar’s generals claimed fraud in the election result. The military coup is the end of Myanmar’s push towards democracy. More than 50 people have been killed since the coup, according to the United Nations. Aung San Suu Kyi, including many politicians and civil society leaders, are under arrest. According to the reports, communications, including the internet, TV, phones were cut in many parts of the country.

The future of Myanmar depends on the momentum of its people and the international community, which can exert pressure on the military for a dialogue with the NLD party to share power. The Western countries can reconcile action and rhetoric to avoid pushback from the military and make the situation more precarious. Today’s protesters shouldn’t feel the disappointment felt by Rohingya in 2017. The western powers responded the genocidal campaign of the military against the Rohingya didn’t prevent the atrocity. 

The United Nations human rights council statement called for a release of Suu Kyi and other detainees and a halt to violence against protestors. This won’t be enough. The western powers should impose sanctions that target the coup leaders and insulate the people of Myanmar.

U.S President Joe Biden took action against Myanmar’s generals including freezing access to US-based assets as he urged the military to relinquish power. It also slapped trade sanctions against the military regime after dozens of people were killed in the deadliest violence.

The sanctions imposed by the U.S and those being prepared by the European Union have drawn attention. The influence of the US is less than last time, it imposed economic sanctions in the 1990s.

Now, China which failed to condemn the coup plays a vital role. The relation between China and Myanmar was getting better under the NLD’s rule. There is a widespread belief in Myanmar that China is supporting Myanmar’s military and as this was growing anti-Chinese sentiments in Myanmar, Chinese officials had to break their silence to deny the rumor.

It seems that China is taking its step slowly. But the western powers and the ASEAN must persuade China to impose necessary sanctions on Myanmar before it is too late. The countries like Russia, Japan, Bangladesh, India, and Singapore that have important ties with Myanmar must be brought on the board. A broader level of internationally enforced sanctions targeting the coup leaders can bring some form of stability to the country.


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