Myanmar impasse to inflict long term damage: experts

By Viet Anh   March 14, 2021 | 02:00 pm GMT+7
Myanmar impasse to inflict long term damage: experts
Tear gas and fire extinguisher gas surround demonstrators as they run away from police during a protest against the military in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 8, 2021. Photo by Reuters.
Experts are calling for greater international engagement with the ongoing Myanmar junta-people standoff, saying the resultant socio-economic disruption will inflict long term damage.

Nicholas Coppel, former Australian ambassador to Myanmar, said the people of Myanmar as well as the military seem to be very firm in their respective positions and there is no conversation between the two. The situation might get worse the longer it remains unresolved. The situation has been continuing for six weeks now; and there's no resolution in sight.

"In terms of the future, we can see that the situation in Myanmar is very much like a standoff, and that will continue for quite some time until there is a possible change in personalities in the military brass or something like that," Coppel told VnExpress International.

Myanmar is experiencing political instability after its army seized power and detained government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership last month. More than 70 people have been killed in widespread protests against the military’s seizure of power.

Mahn Win Khaing Than, an acting vice-president appointed by representatives of Myanmar’s ousted lawmakers, the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, addressed the public via Facebook, saying, "This is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that the dawn is close." He is in hiding along with most senior officials from the ruling National League for Democracy Party, Reuters reported.

Coppel said it was difficult to predict what will happen next as the situation remains in flux. He welcomed the statement issued by the President of the United Nations Security Council on Myanmar, saying it showed that the council was deeply concerned about the developments in the country.

"The democratic processes (mentioned in the statement) include elections, even though they didn't use that word," he said.

More effort needed

Coppel said the statement of the Security Council was just one more step in what's going to be a fairly long process, but it was a very helpful contribution for change in Myanmar.

He emphasized that if things do not improve, the consequences will be very damaging for Myanmar. The economy will suffer enormously, not because of sanctions but because of the disruption. The destruction that is being brought about by the military's actions will set back the economy. People will suffer further interruptions to the internet and curfews. Their sense of freedom and their communication with the outside world is going to be curbed, he said.

Hunter Marston, a PhD researcher with the Australian National University, said Myanmar was going to return to a period of international isolation, economic crisis, and protracted internal conflict if the military remains in control.

The military would like to prevent The National League for Democracy's (NLD) from returning to political power and make sure that it has a monopoly over political control. "Military rule has proven disastrous for the economy, and already we're seeing that the overwhelming majority of the country, including ethnic political parties, are opposed to the military staying in power. A military-dominated Myanmar will be isolated from international partners and friends who have supported the country's transition to democracy in the past decade.

Marston suggested that while a unified international response was essential to demonstrating to the military that it has zero support from global partners, ultimately, the situation in Myanmar depends far more on what happens in the streets of Mandalay, Yangon and other towns around the country.

"Local voices and actors coming together to oppose military rule within Myanmar will have far more impact on the military's decisions," he said.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at the Ewha University in South Korea, said Myanmar’s coup and ongoing political crisis could set back international investment and economic development by several years, and national reconciliation may be delayed by a decade. The international community must not allow Myanmar’s military leaders and business cronies to profit from overturning results of a democratic election and removing the civilian government. Most urgently, the generals need to be deterred from employing even more violence against the people. Humanitarian assistance to Myanmar should actually increase, if it can reach needy citizens, prevent greater instability in ethnic regions, and aid persecuted minorities like the Rohingya.

Coppel felt that international pressure on Myanmar should increase and more actions similar to the Security Council's statement should be taken.

"The pressure has to come from countries in the (Southeast Asian) region as well."

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