Myanmar may not be in a state of unsplendid isolation, as it was during Aung San Suu Kyi’s earlier incarceration with Barack Obama at the helm in the United States.
Nonetheless, a little over 40 days after the military coup which followed yet another election victory, Britain and South Korea have turned the screws on the Tatmidaw (military) in Yangon. It thus comes about that Whitehall on Friday asked British citizens to leave Myanmar as security forces cracked down on yet more protests against the junta and arrested a Polish journalist.
A reporter, representing the Associated Press, was arrested while covering anti-junta protests in the biggest city of Yangon. To that can be added the latest form of military repression ~ patients were forced out of a hospital in the west of the country. The British foreign office has advanced a statement that ought to serve as a warning to Myanmar’s gun-toting watchdogs in uniform ~ “Political tension and unrest are widespread since the military takeover and the levels of violence are rising.”
It is doubtless a stern demarche from London to the omnipotent military in Yangon. In addition to Britain, South Korea has unveiled firmer action. Specifically, that it will suspend defence exchanges and reconsider development aid to Myanmar because of the violence. More than 70 protesters have been killed since the military seized power.
Memorials were held for some of them on Friday, and this included a man whose family said his body had been taken by the security forces and not returned. Seoul has advanced a robust assessment of the frightful reality ~ “Despite repeated demands of the international community, there are an increasing number of victims in Myanmar due to the violent acts of the military and police authorities.”
Clearly, while Britain is engaged in a diplomatic offensive, South Korea has been remarkably forthright in its denunciation of Myanmar’s military. The defence exchanges that will be suspended by Seoul include a ban on the export of arms, restriction on the export of other strategic items, a reconsideration of development assistance while granting what it calls “humanitarian exemptions”.
This, it is envisaged, will enable nationals of Myanmar to stay in South Korea till the situation improves.
The nub of the crisis must be that the explosive situation has been festering, with varying degrees of concern on the part of the comity of nations. Quite the most inhuman action of the military on Friday was the raid on the general hospital in Chin state, forcing all 30 patients to leave and evicting the staff from what they call “onsite” housing.
Indeed, soldiers have been occupying hospitals and universities across Myanmar as they desperately try to quash a civil disobedience movement. The plot thickens as the junta of the embattled country bins the certitudes of democracy.