YANGON: Myanmar’s own ambassador to the United Nations has urged “strong action” against the junta, as reports emerged of scores killed in the military’s latest crackdown. The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, with protesters refusing to submit to the junta regime and continuing to demand a return to democracy.
With more than 600 people killed by security forces trying to quell the movement, the international community has increasingly raised the alarm on the crisis. During a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, Myanmar’s ambassador pushed for more concrete action-proposing a no-fly zone, an arms embargo and more targeted sanctions against members of the military and their families.
“Your collective, strong action is needed immediately,” Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the meeting. “Time is of the essence for us,” he said. “Please, please take action.” An independent analyst with the International Crisis Group also warned the council that Myanmar was “at the brink of state failure”. “The vast majority of the population does not want military rule and will do whatever it takes to prevent that outcome. Yet the military seems determined to impose its will,” said Richard Horsey.
“Its actions may be creating a situation where the country becomes ungovernable. That should be of grave concern to the region and to the broader international community.” China and Russia wield veto power at the Security Council and generally oppose international sanctions. However, Beijing-the top ally of Myanmar’s military-has voiced growing concern about instability, and has said it is speaking to “all parties”. There have been reports that China has opened contact with the CRPH, a group representing the ousted civilian government.
Bloodshed in Bago
At least 618 civilians have been killed in the military’s crackdown on protests, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group. Efforts to verify deaths and confirm news of crackdowns have been greatly hindered by the junta’s throttling of mobile data within the country-effectively shunting most of the population into an information blackout.
News emerged yesterday morning of more violence in the city of Bago, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Yangon-the site of a day-long crackdown that forced residents into hiding in nearby villages. AFP-verified footage shot early Friday showed protesters hiding behind sandbag barricades wielding homemade rifles, as explosions could be heard in the background.
A resident told AFP that the military crackdown killed at least 40 protesters, and authorities refused to let rescue workers remove the bodies. “They piled up all the dead bodies, loaded them into their army truck and drove it away,” he said, adding that authorities then proceeded to arrest people around the community. Local media reports have put the death toll for Bago’s crackdown at far higher. The junta had branded the victims of anti-coup unrest “violent terrorist people”, putting the total death toll since February 1 at 248, according to a spokesman Friday.
‘They will not rule us’
Despite the daily bloodshed, protesters have continued to take to the streets, with dawn strikes sprouting across the country yesterday. Demonstrators are also manifesting their discontent in pointedly creative ways. In commercial hub Yangon, crimson paint-representing the blood already spilled-was splashed across the streets in view of the historic Shwedagon Pagoda.
“Let us unite and boldly show in red that the dictatorial regime will not be allowed to rule us at all,” a student activist announced on Facebook. Flyers with the words “They will not rule us” were scattered across Yangon neighborhoods. In Mandalay, activists pasted the same flyers on the statue of General Aung San. The father of Suu Kyi, he is a national hero who is widely regarded as having wrested Myanmar from under the yoke of British colonialism.
Suu Kyi is currently facing a series of charges from the junta-including accusations of corruption and for having unregistered walkie-talkies. The military has repeatedly justified seizing power by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide. – AFP