SAM BECK WRITES – The most recent example of the Myanmar Junta’s state-sponsored terrorism took place at Nan Nein Monastery in the Shan state on March 15, where they invaded and executed over 22 Buddhist monks and resistance fighters sheltering in the monastery.
Myanmar’s long history of internal division gains new meaning and momentum as the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) finds that in 2022, it had the highest number of incidents in the world in which domestic police violently targeted civilians.
“Myanmar records two-and-a-half times the number of such events as the second-highest country, Afghanistan,” reports Elliott Bynum, ACLED’s Asia-Pacific Regional Specialist. Bynum’s report elucidates a well-documented yet repressed genocide taking place in the Asian Pacific nation, finding that “more than 1 out of every 4 incidents of violence targeting civilians by domestic state forces in 2022 took place in Myanmar.”
This makes Myanmar one of only ten places in the world on the Conflict Watchlist, and the only such country in the Asian Pacific.
It is now believed that something on the order of 3,000 civilians have been killed and 20,000 have been arrested in the wake of the 2021 coup d’état of Myanmar’s government, during which the military usurped control from the democratically elected State Counsellor, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Since the coup, Suu Kyi has been jailed and the military has surpassed its supposed limit of two extensions to its original state of emergency declaration; a third extension was put in place to defer the election to August of this year, about which the UN expresses major doubts.
The Junta has placed 8 out of 14 townships under martial law, targeting those where most guerilla warfare is occurring, between the military’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the numerous civilian defense forces representing the National League for Democracy (NLD), the so-named democratic National Unity Government (NUG) referencing the non-military majority that supports human rights for all Myanmar citizens.
Myanmar’s well-documented history of internal conflict specifically revolves around democracy and religion. The Rohingya people, whose Muslim roots have been met (ironically so) with genocidal opposition from the radical Buddhist military, are a prime example. For instance, a 2017 rebellion of Rohingya rebel group ARSA led to a genocidal military campaign waged by the Myanmar military that was said to kill 9,000 Rohingya and displace 750,000 more.
How can Myanmar begin to reform and heal such devastating fissures while its military betrays the will of the majority?
In 2019, the US imposed sanctions; since the 2021 coup it followed up with more of the same in the Burma Act of 2021, and added to it in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Sponsored by Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Gregory Meeks, the current solution to aid Myanmar permits the US to not only provide support to the Myanmar media and civil society in a humanitarian regard, but to identify and persecute the culprits of human rights abuses. The text does not yet include military aid, which the resistance in Myanmar has requested out of desperation; but there is talk of sanctioning the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, which is a central financial artery of the Myanmar military.
Affairs look bleak in Myanmar. Bu without military aid to the anti-junta forces, Yun Sun, co-director of the East Asia Project at Brookings predicts, “There is no end to the country’s troubles in sight.”