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EDITORIAL | Violence by Myanmar Regime Can Only be Ended by G7-Led Int’l Campaign

The Myanmar regime, which recently bombed civilians, enjoys the support of Russia and China. The UN General Assembly’s hands are tied.



Myanmar regime
Many people were seen visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, in April. (© Kyodo)

The utter barbarism of the attack by the Myanmar regime defies description. 

The airstrike took place one morning in April 2023. It was more than two years after a coup brought the military to power in Myanmar. 

A government military plane dropped a fuel-air explosive (vacuum bomb) on a stronghold of the country's resistance movement. They were in the central Sagaing region. In the end, the government bombs killed around 170 people, including many children. 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, has been among the parties condemning the atrocity. The ASEAN summit meeting, which opened in Indonesia on May 10, issued a declaration, calling for an end to the violence in Myanmar. 

The ruling junta has sought to legitimize its act by claiming "it was attacking a terrorist base." Nonetheless, the attack indiscriminately targeted civilians, including small children. That was utterly unacceptable from a humanitarian standpoint. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should make the issue of Myanmar one of the main topics of discussion at the G7 Summit set to take place in Hiroshima from May 19. The G7 nations must impose effective sanctions on the Myanmar regime in order to encourage the generals to have a change of heart.

Myanmar regime
Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing inspects troops during a military parade in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar's capital, on March 27. (© Kyodo).

Junta's Reprehensible Acts

In mid-April, the junta carried out airstrikes with government fighter planes. They targeted the opening ceremony of an office belonging to a pro-democracy group. Afterward, regime attack helicopters arrived to strafe the area with machine gun fire. And more bombing followed that night as the bodies of the dead were being recovered. 

After Myanmar suffered a coup d'état in February 2021, the People's Defense Force (PDF) was organized by the regime's opponents. They strengthened and have been engaged in armed resistance. 

Meanwhile, the presence of armed groups near civilians inevitably increases the damage civilians suffer in the event of an attack. Be that as it may, it is never acceptable for government forces to indiscriminately attack civilians from the air. It is especially unacceptable when that includes young children.

Myanmar regime
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang shakes hands with General Min Aung Hlaing (right), the top general of the military junta, in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar. May 2, 2023. (©Xinhua via Kyodo)

Responsibility of Russia and China

One factor behind the worsening of the situation in Myanmar is the involvement of Russia and China

Both China and Russia actively support the junta militarily and politically. The attack helicopters used in the assault were of Russian-manufactured. In fact, self-appointed commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has made three trips to Russia since the coup. 

Moreover, when Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Myanmar on May 2, he met with Min. He then pledged that China would provide as much assistance as it can. 

Civilian casualties in Myanmar do not seem to cause Russia, China, or the ruling junta the least bit of distress. That is the same as it was during the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident in China. At that time, armed force was also used to massacre large numbers of students and civilians demanding democracy. The same has been seen in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Appropriately, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a draft resolution, calling for a halt to arms inflows into Myanmar. However, since China and Russia abstained, it has had no practical effect. 

Now, led by the G7, the international community must collectively do more, including through sanctions. Increased pressure must be brought to bear on the Myanmar military. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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