According to the UN Human Rights Office, at least 18 people have been killed and 30 others injured after the Myanmar police opened fire on protesters in several places in Myanmar on February 28. The Burmese police have used live rounds, rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to clamp down on protestors who came out onto the streets to voice their dissent against the Myanmar Army's unlawful seizure of power and the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on February 1. The coup has once again brought a halt to Myanmar's steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, and this latest crackdown has demonstrated the consequences of decades of absolute military rule.
The UN and a number of countries, including the US, UK and the European Union countries, have condemned the latest military crackdown on peaceful protesters in Myanmar. The UK and the US have also decided to impose sanctions on military leaders who directed the coup, as well as some of their business interests and close family members. While this is a step in the right direction, we hope we will hear stronger voices of condemnation and see a more concerted effort from the international community in holding the military junta in Myanmar to account. Organisations like Human Rights Watch and the Burma Campaign UK, while warning against the negative impacts of generalised sanctions on ordinary citizens, have instead urged for more targeted sanctions at military-owned businesses, and have also urged countries with strong trade relations with Myanmar to stop trading in resources that are tied with military interests.
However, none of these efforts will be of any consequence if Myanmar's regional allies are also not brought to the table of discussion, most of whom have been conspicuously silent since the military coup occurred, or have termed it to be an "internal affairs" matter. The UN and the international community must work together with China, India and the ASEAN countries and exert their influence to ensure that the journey towards democracy in Myanmar does not end here. During the Rohingya refugee crisis and the exodus of 2017, it was clear that condemnations without targeted sanctions and disruptions in trade relations (especially with neighbouring countries) did not have any influence on the Myanmar authorities, whether it was the military or democratically elected leaders. There is now a very real possibility that other populations in Myanmar will experience similar levels of violence, as the army and security forces continue to act with impunity and crack down on protestors. We hope that the world will not make the same mistake twice and stand by as history repeats itself.