LAMA ALTAHER WRITES – Although the recent military coup in Myanmar saw a democratically elected government overthrown, the events were reminiscent of the Arab Spring protests across Asia and Africa in 2010. The Myanmar military junta has a long history of using excessive force to crack down on protests, which started during the military’s “clearance operations” against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
This crackdown comes at great cost, literally. Myanmar’s civilian-led government grew the economy steadily, with the help of investors and friendly trading partners such as the UK and China. In fact, by granting access to private banks, the foreign exchange market has been liberalized in Myanmar.
Now, coup leaders may have bitten off more than they can chew. The detainment of civilian elected leaders has turned the clock back. The arrest of national and state government officials such as Aung San Suu Kyi, followed by the announcement of a one-year state of emergency, has aroused fears regarding human rights abuses and the denial of civil liberties. Worse, the Myanmar Military junta has detained civil activists and cut telecommunications, including the internet.
The people of Myanmar have much to fear. They have fresh memories of the brutal military clampdown against the Rohingya ethnic minority
As a response to these events, the global community, including the UN, the US, Britain and France, have called for the unconditional release of all political detainees and a return of the country to its validly elected leaders. Democratic institutions must be restored.
Above all, the international community must take action. The UN and Western countries should impose sanctions by way of coordinated international and multilateral actions. Economic sanctions on the military, its leadership, and its vast businesses must be implemented. The United Nations should impose embargoes on military arms and equipment, punishing the countries that continue to sell arms to Myanmar.
By these measures and others, Myanmar’s military assault on democracy must be quashed.