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Millennium Post

Sensitive situation

Just yesterday, the ongoing Myanmar coup saw its bloodiest day of protests yet, with at least 18 dead and more than 30 injured. Activists say that security forces made use of stun grenades, tear gas and live ammunition on the crowd to break it up. This was only the latest escalation in what has been a coup that has steadily gotten bloodier and more desperate.

To briefly recount, the protests started when a military coup seized power and detained much of Myanmar's elected government citing election irregularities. Government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in particular, was charged with possessing illegally imported communication devices and breaking Coronavirus protocols. Since the coup started on February 1, the ruling military junta has seen constant protests, strikes, etc., at home and widespread condemnation abroad. In response, the military has initiated a brutal crackdown using armoured vehicles and security forces in full battle gear. Many of these security forces are the same ones who were previously notorious for cracking down on ethnic minorities.

The concern now is that the military is increasingly getting more used to the idea of using deadly force on protestors as mass protests continue. While the military did initially seem interested in establishing its legitimacy internationally and amongst the protestors, now it is no longer interested in keeping with this image. Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights for the nation has already warned that the junta will only likely escalate its violence as it holds back less and less over time. It is, therefore, up to the international community to step up its response. Words of condemnation, as Andrews put it, are welcome but no longer enough. There is a need for urgent action to get the military to back-off. As far as international response goes, it has almost entirely been in stern condemnation and/or concern over the situation as Myanmar's political progress towards democracy is suddenly and brutally reversed. The US has already imposed sanctions on many of the top members of the military junta and has warned of further actions to hold those in power behind the coup responsible for the violence.

In contrast to such condemnation, there has also been some notable support. Neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines have only weighed-in on the situation to state that it is an 'internal matter'. China, however, has been a lot more open in its support. In its position as one of the 'mighty' P5 nations at the UNSC, it has blocked a UNSC statement condemning the coup and has urged all sides of the coup to "resolve their differences." There are also unconfirmed reports that the Chinese have a far greater role to play in the coup than what immediately meets the eye. An Australian think tank published a report that speaks of flights coming in from China carrying unidentified personnel and equipment. Several commentators have also noted that many of the weapons being used by the Myanmar military have been supplied by none other than the Chinese. The speculations around the reason for Chinese interference on such a level are varied. Some say this is about China being able to carry out infrastructure projects in the region as part of its Belt and Road initiative. Others say that China is concerned with the growing influence of its rivals USA and Japan in the nation which is inspiring China to provide background support to the junta. It is precisely this presence of China as a looming background factor that makes the situation somewhat complicated for India. Despite not having the friendliest relationship with the military junta, India has been careful in its rhetoric, staying away from serious condemnation. The concern is that India's push against the junta will only benefit China which can increase its background support and influence in the nation, limiting India's options as a major regional power.

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