The United States must stand for freedom and justice not only within her borders, but globally as well. Where freedom and justice is threatened, the United States has the imperative to act by whatever means possible. That is why the U.S. should explore every option available, including military ones, to combat the dangerous situation in Myanmar. The military junta there is overtly oppressing the people who had democracy stripped away from them overnight. Now, they are showing signs of restarting the genocide of the Rohyinga people. The U.S. must take immediate action be it through sanctions or military force to prevent this genocide from restarting. Those who have the power to act and still decide to do nothing are enabling through their inaction.
The military took control about a month ago as a result of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud. As a result of these claims the military, which already held 25% of the seats in parliament, took control of the remainder of the government and arrested key leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi. Burmese police and military forces are taking swift action against protesters who are rallying against the military coup. Police are also using live ammunition and flashbangs against protestors who are demanding that the democratically elected leader, Suu Kyi, be reinstated.This is a striking escalation that will further embolden the military to finish the genocide that it started several years ago against the Rohyinga people, a Muslim minority.
While this goes on, the U.S. and the United Nations have had the same toothless reaction: limited sanctions and urging restraint but no significant, concrete action. When it comes to taking action, there is no middle of the road. The U.S. and the U.N. cannot take action so they appear to be doing something, rather they must pick a side and commit to it. That is not what they have done with limited sanctions against leaders who already had sanctions imposed on them. Both bodies need to come out together against the coup, and provide even harder sanctions that will undermine the legitimacy of the junta. At this point in time, military action is not warranted, but that is not to say that situation will not change soon. The situation in Myanmar has striking similarities to those of Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s. That is because they all fall into the 8 Stages of Genocide crafted by Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch. Dr. Stanton, who founded Genocide Watch, also worked in the US State Department where he had an important role in setting up the Rwandan Genocide Tribunals. Right now, Myanmar sits around Stage 5 (Polarization) of Dr. Stanton’s list, only two stages away from extermination. This underscores the importance for significant and affirmative action in opposition to the coup. Myanmar’s condition may be unique to the region, but it is not new.
The resurgence of military rule in Myanmar could lead to the ultimate demise of the Rohingya people — who largely fled after the atrocities committed in 2017. Those who fled are now being sent back to Myanmar by countries such as India, and will add to the nearly 600,000 Rohingya left in Myanmar. The return of military rule will likely lead to the resurgence of hatred and violence against the Rohingya people as they were the ones to perpetrate it in 2017 when constituted a genocide.
The sanctions in place now are a good start, but they can go much further. They have been largely targeted to the leaders of the coup; however, their effectiveness has yet to be seen. Expanded sanctions and a show of military force by either the U.N. or the U.S. will desperately be needed in the coming weeks to ward off any further escalation. Burmese citizens are also requesting the UN to send peacekeepers. That move may prove difficult due to Myanmar’s proximity to China who holds a veto on the U.N. Security Council, the only body that can authorize a peacekeeping mission. China previously blocked the body from issuing a condemnation of the coup when it first occurred. The situation is not yet ripe for an armed intervention such as peacekeepers, but that is an option that should be prepared for as a contingency.
If it becomes apparent that the genocide will be continued against the Rohyinga, the U.N. and the U.S. must be ready to act at a moment’s notice. This is a time for both bodies to make up for past inaction or misapplied action. After fumbling the response to two genocides in the same decade and then failing to adequately prevent the 2017 genocide against the Rohyinga, the international community owes it to not only the them, but the world to act. International sanctions should still be applied, and strengthened wherever possible, but the U.N. and the U.S. need to be ready to intervene if those methods fail.