Has the world given up on Myanmar?

Posted on 12 May 2021

More than four months after the military forcefully took control of the country, Devex's Lisa Cornish looks at how Myanmar’s people are taking the fight for democracy into their own hands — and what options the international community has to support them.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said before the  ASEAN meeting to discuss Myanmar. “ASEAN members should ..... take this opportunity to impose targeted, economic sanctions on junta leaders and on businesses that fund the junta, and press the junta to release political detainees, end abuses, and restore the country’s democratically elected government.”

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

ASEAN has been seen as a key forum in bringing peace to Myanmar, but it is a forum that Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia with the Council on Foreign Relations, said is not designed to broker peace.

“I think that one just can't expect that much from ASEAN,” he told Devex. “Any organisation that runs by consensus and is mostly authoritarian regimes is going to be reluctant to do very much in such a situation.”

CID member organisations continue to work directly with community partners on the ground in Myanmar, by-passing the military junta.

New Zealand has condemned the coup and cut diplomatic and military  ties with Myanmar. 

Other actions that could be considered include the following :

  • Challenge the credentials of the junta at the UN and other international and regional fora. This would send a clear message that they have not been accepted by the international community and will not be able to engage with other countries in a formal manner. 
  • Engage in a constructive way with the National Unity Government, on the basis that it includes the democratically elected Government. 
  • Raise with ASEAN leaders the failure of the junta to comply with the 5-point ASEAN Leaders’ Consensus and ensure tangible sanctions are placed on Myanmar for this failure.