myanmar coup
April 12, 2021

"On the domestic front, I have not yet witnessed something I've been happy about," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Politico in an interview, referring to the Biden administration's policy choices. But when it comes to Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation which has recently been rocked by a military coup and subsequent nationwide pro-democracy protests, "[the administration's] instincts are good. I think they're trying to do the right thing."

As it turns out the White House feels the same way about McConnell, who has been invested in Myanmar's fate for decades. Because of his experience championing democratic efforts in the country and his relationship with ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the White House is relying on McConnell, normally a political adversary, to help shape its Myanmar policy. McConnell's heavy involvement has helped the Biden administration "create a united front with lawmakers in both parties" on the issue, Politico reports, and he's getting some rare praise from top administration officials in response.

"Senator McConnell has played an important leadership role promoting an immediate return to democracy in Burma (Myanmar's other name), ensuring those responsible for the coup and the devastating violence against civilians are held to account, and standing firmly with the people of Burma as they peacefully resist military oppression," National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told Politico. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

March 28, 2021

Military leaders from 12 countries, including the United States, issued a rare joint statement Saturday night condemning the use of force by Myanmar's security forces following the deadliest day of anti-coup protests since the movement began. Security forces reportedly killed 114 people, including children, as the ruling military junta, which seized power from the civilian government on Feb. 1, celebrated Armed Forces Day.

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, chaired by Gen. Mark Milley, joined their counterparts from Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United Kingdom in signing the brief statement, which urged Myanmar's military to "cease violence and work to continue to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions." Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also tweeted his support for the statement.

Meanwhile, Tom Andrews, the United Nation's special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, called for "robust coordinated action" from the international community. "Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow to the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them," he said, per CNN. "The people of Myanmar need the world's support."

On Sunday, security forces again opened fire, this time at a crowd that had gathered for a funeral for one of Saturday's victims. There have been no reports of casualties. Read more at Reuters and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

March 27, 2021

Myanmar's security forces reportedly killed 114 people across the country during Saturday protests, Reuters and Myanmar Now report.

Saturday has turned into the deadliest day since demonstrations against the Feb. 1 military coup began more than a month ago, and more than 400 people have been killed overall. A 13-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy were reportedly among at least 13 people killed in Myanmar's second most populous city, Mandalay, while another 13-year-old was reportedly killed in another village. Despite the violence, there was once again no sign of the movement abating. "They are killing us like birds or chickens in our homes," Thu Ya Zaw told Reuters. "We will keep protesting regardless ... We must fight until the junta falls."

As the protests and killings took place, the military celebrated Armed Forces Day, and the junta's leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said "the army seeks to join hands with the entire nation to safeguard democracy," but "violent acts that affect stability and security in order to make demands are inappropriate." Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the anti-coup group CRPH, said it was "a day of shame for the armed forces." Read more at Reuters and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

This story has been updated to reflect an increase in the number of deaths reported.

March 15, 2021

Myanmar's ruling junta declared martial law in two townships of Yangon, where 34 protesters were killed Sunday, The Associated Press reports, citing the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Four more protesters were killed elsewhere in Myanmar, making Sunday one of the deadliest days since the military seized control of the country six weeks ago. The epicenter of Sunday's crackdown was Hlaing Thar Yar township, were 22 people were killed and more than dozen more injured.

The nonviolent resistance to the military takeover of Myanmar has involved general strikes and large marches, and the military has started responding with more force and expanded authority. The junta's announcement of martial law late Sunday, on state broadcaster MRTV, appears to be the first use of that phrase since the coup, AP reports.

Protesters have been trying out new tactics amid the crackdown, including holding candlelight vigils in the dark of night and using fire extinguisher spray, flash demonstrations, and billowing laundry to avoid capture.

Sunday's deaths "appeared to raise beyond 100 the number of civilians killed by security forces since the coup," AP reports. "The actual death toll is likely higher, as police apparently seized some bodies, and some victims have had serious gunshot wounds that medical staff at makeshift clinics would be hard-pressed to treat." Peter Weber

February 28, 2021

At least 18 people have been killed during nationwide anti-coup protests in Myanmar on Sunday, marking the deadliest day in the country since the demonstrations began earlier this month, BBC reports. Dozens more people were reportedly injured. Deaths were reported in major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, as well as several others where police allegedly fired live rounds, rubber bullets, and tear gas. Demonstrators have said, in some instances at least, that police fired without warning.

The military regime that overthrew Myanmar's elected government in February has ramped up its response to the pro-democracy rallies over the last few weeks after a few initial days of calm. Security forces have reportedly utilized increasingly violent tactics to disperse the crowds and hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been detained over the course of the demonstrations. But the protesters have so far shown no sign of slowing down. "Whatever they do, we just have to take it," one protester told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's civilian leader who has not been seen in public since she was detained by the military, is scheduled to appear in court Monday on dubious charges of possessing unregistered walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus rules, but her lawyer says he has not been able to speak with her, per BBC. Read more at BBC and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

February 27, 2021

On Friday, Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, received an ovation from the U.N. General Assembly after he made an emotional request for help restoring democracy on behalf of the country's elected government that was overthrown in a military coup earlier this month.

But a day later, the military junta that now runs Myanmar announced it had fired him in response, BBC reports. A state television announcement said Kyaw Moe Tun had "abused the power and responsibilities" of his post and "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn't represent" Myanmar.

The news comes after another full day of anti-coup demonstrations across the nation. Police continued to crack down on the protesters, and there are reports that a woman was shot and taken to a hospital. A monitoring group reports more than 770 people have been arrested and sentenced since the rallies began three weeks ago. Read more at BBC. Tim O'Donnell

February 24, 2021

In response to the military coup in Myanmar earlier this month, President Biden imposed targeted sanctions on the regime, freezing $1 billion in government assets in the United States and restricting exports to the military. Biden's hope is the financial hit will force the junta to release detained civilian leaders and cede power back to the elected government, but The New Yorker's Steve Coll examined whether the sanctions can actually produce such a change.

The chances seem slim based on decades of research, including scholarship that shows sanctions achieve their goals only a third of the time, Coll reports. Additionally, "when the goal in the targeted country is to promote democracy" sanctions may even backfire. Dursun Peksen, a political scientist at the University of Memphis and a longtime sanctions researcher, told Coll financial actions may indeed put pressure on their targets, but rather than give in, they'll often crack down on their political opponents even harder because of "an increased sense of vulnerability."

Of course, Biden's options were limited. "The alternative is often business as usual," David Baldwin, a political scientist at Princeton University, told Coll. "How do you justify doing business as usual with a regime like that?"

Ultimately, Coll writes, there is probably a third route aside from unilateral sanctions and no response at all, but it will take "fresh thinking in Washington, deeper collaboration among Democratic allies, humility, and experimentation" to figure out exactly what it looks like. Read more at The New Yorker. Tim O'Donnell

February 20, 2021

Two people protesting Myanmar's military coup were shot and killed by police in Mandalay, the country's second largest city, local media reported, per The Associated Press. Emergency workers confirmed the news to Reuters, as well. Several other serious injuries were reported on what turned into the bloodiest day since the pro-democracy movement began more than a week ago.

The mass demonstrations took shape in the wake of the military junta seizing power from Myanmar's elected government leaders earlier this month. While the atmosphere around them was initially calm, security forces have since increased their efforts to curb the movement, reportedly using water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds.

On Friday, a woman who was shot by police earlier in the week died, marking the first confirmed fatality since the protests began. Despite the violence, the demonstrations reportedly show no signs of slowing down. Read more at The Associated Press and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

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