Updated: August 20, 2022 04:39 PM GMT
Protesters show the three finger salute and hold photos of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the Myanmar military junta’s execution of four prisoners, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand on July 26, 2022. (AFP)
“They are trying to intimidate the whole population,” Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Bo said earlier this week.
He was talking about the ruling, the illegal military junta that seized power in his country in a coup on Feb 1 last year and which this week added a further six years to the prison sentence of the jailed, deposed, democratically-elected leader of the country, Aung San Suu Kyi
Last month the regime showed its truest colors in full by executing four pro-democracy activists — for the first time in more than three decades.
Cardinal Bo warned that Myanmar’s brutal military junta — which has faced more sustained resistance since the coup than it perhaps expected — is cracking down even more severely, determined to gain undisputed control.
“By the end of the year they presume everything will be quiet again, and they will not have any resistance anymore because of the atrocities and intimidation that the military is carrying out,” he said.
The warning by Myanmar’s cardinal is one that should be heeded by the international community. It is clear that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup just over 18 months ago, is profoundly insecure — and is lashing out as a result.
"The problem for Myanmar is that an unholy, lethal cocktail has been unleashed"
Typical of all dictators, he arrogantly, foolishly, naively believed his own propaganda and was therefore surprised that the people of Myanmar, who had just expressed their political wishes at the ballot box, did not then welcome his uninvited leadership.
In an adaptation of the old Hans Christian Anderson folk tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, Myanmar’s new illegal ruler has no new clothes, only the same tired old military uniform bristling with medals which terrifies some and sickens others.
The problem for Myanmar is that an unholy, lethal cocktail has been unleashed.
The people do not want Min Aung Hlaing and his sordid, corrupt, criminal, brutal and illegal dictatorship — and many are going to extreme lengths, risking their lives, to make that clear.
Yet those who resort to arms against the regime have incredible courage but little experience, training, weaponry or ammunition.
They might — as a recent Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Myanmar: The Forgotten Revolution shows – be able to score a few hits against the regime, but ultimately Myanmar faces a grinding, grim, desperate civil war and a human rights and humanitarian crisis edging closer to catastrophe, with neither side winning and neither side giving up.
"If you’re a genocidal, murderous Naypyidaw bunker-based thug, what more would you do than give your shoulders a shrug?"
Yet the world does not appear to be watching. Indeed, the international community — admittedly preoccupied with other crises, not least Ukraine, Taiwan, Covid-19, the cost of living and the energy crisis — is distracted. And as a result, it is allowing a humanitarian and human rights crisis to unfold under our very eyes with impunity.
Okay, so the new United Nations Special Envoy, Singaporean academic Noeleen Heyzer, secured a visit this week and told the junta to stop its executions and stop the violence.
Big deal. I don’t doubt Noeleen Heyzer’s intentions — but who has heard of her? If you are a semi-courteous, diplomatic, quasi-educated character, you might give her the benefit of the doubt.
Dialogue sounds reasonable if you are a reasonable person. But if you’re a genocidal, murderous Naypyidaw bunker-based thug, what more would you do than give your shoulders a shrug?
This is why it is time for the world to wake up and act. The third ingredient in the Myanmar junta’s lethal cocktail is that it is a wholly backed, if not totally wholly-owned subsidiary of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.
Both give the regime arms. Both give the regime diplomatic cover. Both share the regime’s blood on their hands.
That’s the lethal cocktail. Deadlock in Myanmar. Apathy abroad. And a wicked, evil alliance backing a genocidal, criminal regime.
So, we have to change that.
First, by waking up the sleepy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. Never have I known a more pathetic incumbent of that great office.
"Guterres has to wake up and lead. He is already destined to go down in history as one of the worst UN secretary-generals"
Never have I held such great hopes for a new secretary-general only to be so manifestly, extraordinarily and enormously disappointed.
Ban Ki-moon took charge of the Cyclone Nargis humanitarian crisis, even if it took him a nudge to get going.
Kofi Annan took leadership of the crisis in Timor-Leste. But over Myanmar today, where is Mr Guterres? Invisible. Or “in-siesta-ble”. Pathetic – and disgraceful.
Heyzer is probably delightful — but with the UN secretary-general AWOL on Myanmar, she’s rendered impotent.
So, Guterres has to wake up and lead. He is already destined to go down in history as one of the worst UN secretaries-general.
If he wakes up and acts he might — just might — salvage that tag of failure, but if not he will be a footnote in history as an accomplice to atrocities.
Second, by accountability. Some very welcome sanctions by the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and others have been imposed, but there’s room for more.
Third, by the provision of humanitarian aid to those most in need.
In a nutshell, what we need to do is cut the lifeline to the illegal regime and provide a lifeline to the people.
Myanmar is a humanitarian disaster. Too often it’s a disaster in a backwater. But having visited this beautiful country and its borders more than 50 times, been deported twice and written three books about it, it’s a crisis that blazes brightly in my conscience. And I won’t stay silent until the world acts.
Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is a Senior Analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organization CSW, the co-founder and Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch, co-founder and Deputy Chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and a board member of the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign. He is the author of six books, including three books about Myanmar, especially his latest, “Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads”. His faith journey is told in his book “From Burma to Rome: A Journey into the Catholic Church” (Gracewing, 2015). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.