Myanmar Protest Escalate; UN Envoy Warns of Civil War Threat

Lylian Pagan
Staff Writer

Myanmar’s military crackdown on protestors is sending shock waves throughout the Asian nation. The UN Special Envoy for Myanmar urged the UN Security Council to consider “potential significant action” in Myanmar to prevent the country from falling into a civil war. The organization also called for a complete reversal of the February 1 military coup and the restoration of the country’s democratically elected government. CNN reports that at least 550 people have been killed by Myanmar’s military in the aftermath of the coup.

According to NPR, two months after the coup, protesters are still defying the military. Several thousand refugees have fled the violence to safety across the Salween River into Thailand and India. Authorities in both countries have tried to block new arrivals, fearing that the steady flow may become a flood if unrest in Myanmar worsens, The Guardian reports. UN officials warn that Myanmar is on the verge of becoming a failed state if action is not taken soon. The UN also issued a warning to Thailand and India that it is illegal under international law to refuse or block refugees seeking asylum.

For decades, Myanmar was governed by military elites. However, in 2008, a new constitution was introduced, creating 14 new state and region governments and parliaments, with the promise of a democratic state. Democratization in Myanmar meant transforming a top-down, autocratic regime into a system that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of democratic constituencies at many levels, reports The Asian Foundation. The coup returned the country to full military rule after a short span of quasi-democracy that began in 2011, The New York Times says.

As protesters continue to challenge the military and fears of a civil war linger, some in the region are preparing to assist the refugees. At least three fully armed ethnic minority groups with a history of guerilla warfare against the government are vowing to join the fray if violence by the military continues. CBS News reports that the U.S. and other countries have condemned the military junta running Myanmar, with the Biden administration announcing a complete suspension of trade with the country. However, the generals remain undeterred and continue to be supported by China and Russia. Women and children have been killed in their homes by state-sponsored violence meant to deter civil disobedience. The UN is urging the world to isolate Myanmar’s military generals and block their access to weapons. As both sides are unwilling to back down, observers fear that more bloodshed is inevitable.

In a rare show of unity, all 15 members of the UN Security Council called for continued support for the democratic transition in Myanmar. The Council stressed the need to refrain from violence and respect human rights. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called the coup unacceptable and urged the international community to protect democracy in Myanmar.

 

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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