Myanmar’s brutal junta is learning fast from Russia. Aiming to better Russia’s beastly record, the military junta of Myanmar is working hard to create new history in war crimes. Russia does target hospitals in Ukraine. Now, Myanmar’s junta too has begun to single out medical facilities for harsh military action. As extreme violence sees a sudden spurt in Myanmar, more than 50 percent of the recorded worldwide attacks on medical facilities and workers happens in Ukraine and Myanmar.
Determined to Break the Will
Attacks on medical facilities and workers are war crimes in armed conflicts. The Geneva Convention says so. Yet, Myanmar’s junta is wantonly preying on medical facilities, besides targeting civilians for bomb attacks. The junta violence begins with random arrests of health workers and the heartless bloodshed comes later. The beastly junta doesn’t care two hoots for global laws and conventions.
Make no mistake. The junta is determined to break the protesters’ will. The best way to break that is to lock up the medical staff for their crime of nursing them. Though these are war crimes, nothing happens to the lawless junta. Health workers apart, the Rohingya Muslims too are targets for the merciless junta. Persecuted Rohingya Muslims are often herded together in a rotting cell, often with no food.
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Bolder With the Blood Sport
Stretching across the border, the junta often prevails on the Bangladesh army to slash the food aid meant for the Rohingyas. This is cruel as the Rohingya refugees, who are not permitted to work, rely solely on food rations for survival. As the monthly ration of $12 was slashed to $10 in March, and perhaps to $8 tomorrow, it is the junta’s way of killing the Rohingyas.
Not satisified, the junta restricts Rohingyas’ movements by erecting barbed wires. The Rohingya refugees do not dare to raise a voice against the junta, as doing so means death. As the world watches in impotent silence, the junta, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, is getting bolder by the day with its blood sport. The General had usurped power in a military coup in February 2021, overthrowing the popularly elected Aung San Suu Kyi. https://time.com/5934896/myanmar-aung-san-suu-kyi- detained-coup/
Desperate to Protect the Turf
Despite the power, the junta is trapped in vagueness. As anti-coup resistance groups gain an upper hand in pockets, confusion reigns over where the junta’s authority begins and ends. The junta may be strong in major cities, the coastline regions and the central plains, but it is turning more insecure.
Desperate to protect its turf, the junta has been launching air strikes, day in and day out. Primarily, civilians are targeted to prove the junta calls the shots in Myanmar. The junta knows its strength, it is more united than the splintered opposition. Against the latter’s 120,000 combat troops, the junta has around 400,000. This is why, despite shedding much blood, the rebel forces have failed to make much headway against the junta. https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/myanmar-s- military-numbers
Driven by Deathly Obsession
Emboldened, the junta is shelling even remote regions. The junta’s brutality is visible in the countless crippled civilians lying around forsaken villages. As the bloody civil war hollows out daily lives, killing has become an obsession for the junta.
The junta loves bombs. As if these are not enough, drinking water is running scarce in displacement camps. Driven by deathly obsession, the junta does not tire from arresting civilian leaders. Worse, even peaceful protesters are not spared. https://www.theguardian.com/global- development/2023/may/19/un-denied-access-to-rohingya- refugee-camps-after-cyclone-mocha-myanmar
Killing People Comes Easily
For the junta, drawing blood is fine art. As the junta often employs counter-insurgency methods like torture and random arrests, protesters dread the sight of the junta men. As clean water has become a rarity, many of those arrested die prematurely from afflictions caused by bladder stones.
Killing people comes easily for the insecure junta. Aiding this murderous design, arms flow freely from Russia and China. For the junta, global laws are meant to be broken, the United Nations is meant for ridicule. The junta thinks it is omniscient, the be-all and end-all in Myanmar. So ruthless is the junta that in April it bombed the Pazigyi village, killing many children. https://www.voanews.com/a/bombing-of-civilians-in- myanmar-leaves-village-reeling/7061872.html
The General’s Planned Genocide
Like all dictators, the junta supremo General Min Aung Hlaing too is insecure. He is paranoid about his personal safety. He is suspicious of those around him. As he plays the killing game, he gets thrilled by the sight of blood. He has banned opposition parties, gagged the media and thrown the elected behind bars.
Not satisfied, the General carries on with his planned genocide of the Rohingya refugees. Concerned, the United Nations has come down heavily on the junta: “Systematic, gross human rights violations, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, being perpetrated daily on the people of Myanmar.” At the end of it, the junta has inspired the births of many guerrilla-style resistance groups, like the People’s Defence Forces or PDF. https://www.usip.org/publications/2022/11/understanding- peoples-defense-forces-myanmar
Assistance from the Me-Too Russia
The PDF is backed by ethnic militias, with over 13,000 defected soldiers from the junta. Not surprising that a civil war has ensued involving the junta and the PDF. A government in exile, styled the National Unity Government, has been installed to earn global backing. Yet, there is no let in the junta’s atrocities in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
As a first step, the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union have slapped several sanctions on the junta. However, support from China, Russia and India has emboldened the junta to carry on regardless. As China eyes Myanmar’s vast natural resources, it has advanced a $254m aid to the junta. The me-too Russia has assisted the junta with advanced weapons worth $400m. These are red flags. https://www.claws.in/chinas-investments-in-the-post-coup- myanmar-an-assessment/
Tantamounts to Tacit Approval
Nevertheless, the junta has been accelerating its murderous drive. The spilling blood is deepening the divide in South-East Asia. The junta is dividing the region with religion. The junta’s penchant for bombing the Buddhists in Myanmar is proof. Since the junta’s takeover, more than 1.3m Burmese have been thrown out of their homes. Many of them find refuge in neighbouring nations and the divide is only getting deeper.
In this killing game, natural calamities are handy excuses. For instance, citing the cyclone that hit Myanmar in May 2023, the junta launched its genocide of the junta’s perceived enemies. Despite blood flowing in Myanmar, global response remains muted. Worse, even the 10-nation Association of South-East Asian Nations, aka Asean, seems to have lost its voice. This silence tantamounts to tacit approval for the junta’s obsession with killing. https://www.cfr.org/blog/aseans-complete-failure-myanmar- short-overview
Indifferent to the Changing Geopolitics
So, who is condoning the junta’s killings in Myanmar? Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia and the Asean, is simply unable to author a draft peace plan for Myanmar. This is turning Myanmar’s military crisis into Asean’s worst crisis since 1967, when it was founded. Worryingly, Asean members are divided over the Myanmar issue. Asean members, other than Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore, back the junta’s return to the Association.
Inspired, the army-ruled Thailand too has begun backing the junta. Cambodia and Laos are following suit. However, both India and China are citing self-interest to back the junta with their implicit silence over the killings. Indifferent to the ever-changing geopolitical equations, anti-junta protesters in Myanmar are soldiering on nevertheless. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/11/2/china-russia- india-enabling-myanmars-military-report
Destroying Hopes of Democracy
The anti-junta protests are small noise for the junta. Unleashing unprecedented violence against the Rohingyas, the junta continues to kill them. The provocation lies in how the junta views the ordinary Burmese. Seeing them as their enemies, and fearing harm to their self-interests, the insecure junta kills everyone now. This is extinguishing even the glimmer of hope for restoring democracy in Myanmar. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2023/04/12/mya nmar-military-kills-more-than-100-people-in-a-single- attack/?sh=63359dc03393
Strangely, anti-junta forces try to neutralise the junta’s extreme violence with counter-violence. This strategy does not work. Making matters worse, the resistance groups do not even have a strong inspiring leader. No wonder they are not winning. As militant ethnic groups back the PDF, the bloody fight against the junta is now moving from the sidelines, right into the Burmese heartland.
The Burmese blood is set to spill more than ever now, for many other reasons. One, rifts within resistance groups are deepening. Two, the shadow National Unity Government includes Rohingyas. Three, driven by the generational divide within, the PDF groups are not obeying the shadow government. While the shadow government is run by non-violence-adhering old guard – Ms Suu Kyi and her backers, the PDFs are led by militant Young Turks. Therein lies the dichotomy. https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/01/31/myanmars- civil-war-has-moved-to-its-heartlands
The Big Bloody Picture is Clear
Yet, there is hope. As the junta wrestles with a withering economy, its war chest is shrinking. Myanmar’s hard-currency exports of gas, gems, methamphetamines and opium have fallen sharply. As the displaced flee to Bangladesh and Thailand, the junta is an accused. Neighbours are blaming the junta for exporting drugs and chaos. Given its rivalry with China, America too is not keen to aid the anti-junta forces militarily.
Viewed against these backdrops, the big bloody picture is clear. As much as one-third of the Burmese needs immediate help. Victory won’t be easy for either of the warring sides. The insecure junta extended the state of emergency by six months on February 1st with the hope of preventing protesters from uniting and thus breaking their solidarity. Yet, the protesters are getting more militant and organised, while the bloodthirsty junta is not in a mood to give up. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/2/1/myanmar- military-rulers-extend-state-of-emergency-by-six-months
As the junta’s lust for blood inensifies, it is sure recipe for more extreme violence. The coming days threaten to be more terror-filled. Clearly, Myanmar is moving beyond redemption. No amount of bathing the pagoda of the majestic Buddhist Htilominlo Temple in Bagan with banknotes can help General Min Aung Hlaing wash the blood he is spilling in Myanmar. Yet, he may remain unfazed. Whose blood is it anyway?