People are dying in Myanmar during this pandemic and not from Covid-19 either.
We are deeply saddened by the barbaric attacks perpetrated by Myanmar’s military junta on hundreds of innocent civilians to stifle democratic protests.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a nonprofit organization, the junta has killed at least 459 people in its crackdown against dissent since it seized power and overthrew the country’s democratically elected government through a military coup on February 1.
Last Saturday marked the deadliest day yet, as CNN reported at least 114 people were killed during demonstrations in 44 towns and cities across the country, based on a tally by the independent Myanmar Now news outlet.
Among the victims, according to the CNN report, were at least six children, between the ages of 10 and 16.
According to Save the Children, at least 20 children have been killed since the military coup. The youngest victim was a seven-year-old girl, who was shot dead by junta forces while she was sitting on her father’s lap as soldiers barged into their home.
Another 12 people were killed in various incidents in Myanmar on Sunday. Myanmar security forces even opened fire at a funeral mourning people killed the previous day.
We condemn these attacks and express our deepest condolences and our sympathy to the families of the victims.
We also express our full and unconditional support and solidarity to the people of Myanmar in their efforts toward restoring a democratic government, one that guarantees and protects human rights and the fundamental values and principles of a just, inclusive and peaceful society.
In a joint statement, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned Myanmar’s military junta and urged it to “immediately stop killing the very people it has the duty to serve and protect.”
The officials “strongly condemn the Myanmar military’s widespread, lethal, increasingly systematic attacks against peaceful protesters, as well as other serious violations of human rights since it seized power on February 1, 2021.”
They called the killings “shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police, who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children.”
“This situation has also put at further risk the already vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar, including the Rohingya,” they said. “The international community has a responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from atrocity crimes.”
The Philippine government had previously called for the “complete restoration” of democracy in Myanmar but did not join the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution condemning the military coup, citing its respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Myanmar.
But perhaps it is high time for the Philippines and other members of the Asean community to act more firmly to stop the violence in the country, which the UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar justifiably called “mass murder.”
Our government should seek to uphold the foundations of our common democratic culture with Myanmar. It must reaffirm our people’s commitment to support the fundamental freedoms and rights upon which our democracies rest.
Asean members need to tell Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing and the Tatmadaw in no uncertain terms that the violence against the people of Myanmar is unacceptable and must be stopped at once.
Of course, doing this is a delicate balancing act, since Asean states also do not want to completely ostracize the Myanmar junta and would like to continue engaging with it through peaceful dialogue. Asean states also need to deal with each other in good faith and with civility.
But the Asean should take some kind of joint action nonetheless. They must show stronger solidarity against the spiraling violence. If not a stronger united stand, then perhaps some backdoor diplomacy from Asean states could produce more significant results than official statements in terms of easing tensions.
Asean states must realize they can’t act on threats only when it directly concerns their own countries. They are Myanmar’s neighbors, fellow Asean members, trading and business partners. They have strong leverage that could make the military junta more reasonable, responsible and amenable to finding mutually acceptable solutions, including the possibility of restoring more stable, democratic political conditions in Myanmar.
Image credits: Jimbo Albano