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Background 

In the aftermath of the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021, non-violent protests in the country have been met with brutal military crackdowns. However, since May 2021, civilian armed resistance groups in Myanmar have increased as people have sought to join prevailing ethnic armed organizations. Several new anti-coup forces have also emerged. According to the reports, as many as 1382 people have been killed in Myanmar since 1st February, while more than 11,000 pro-democracy protestors have been detained. In Kayah state and nearby towns in Southern Shan State, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF), comprised of the Karenni Army, has been utilizing non-traditional war strategies to respond to Myanmar military force’s atrocities.  

As a direct reaction to armed resistance in Myanmar, the army has carried out attacks on entire civilian communities; their tactics include airstrikes, arson, and indiscriminate shelling and bombings. Moreover, the military junta has denied access to basic facilities to civilians under its ‘four cuts’ strategy in order to damage the support base of armed ethnic groups. The attack on 24th December, Christmas eve, at 2:00 am represents the latest escalation of violence in Myanmar; the civilian woke up to the sounds of drones flying over in the Kayah State in the southeast. The deadly massacre has signaled a return to old military practice, such as shooting and burning that has been long used against minorities, including the Rohingya Muslims.

Targeted civilian- 37 burnt bodies

On 29th December, an investigation revealed that 37 individuals were missing, which included two children under the age of 12 years. According to the witnesses, bodies of men, women, and children were brutally burned, and many were beyond recognition. Forensic analysis by the medical team was conducted on 31 dead bodies; the results depicted that those people were shot before their bodies were burned. Moreover, a KNDF spokesperson revealed that four of the bodies were in such a condition that a detailed forensic analysis could not be performed on them. Due to the problem of identification, victims were largely determined based on missing person reports and evidence found on the location. 

In response, the military junta asserted that they targeted an ‘unspecified number of terrorists with the weapons’ from the opposition forces after they surpassed a military checkpoint. Further investigation revealed that none of the victims belonged to any resistance groups and were neither carrying weapons. The reported missing people included workers at a domestic health-focus humanitarian group, seven local villagers, and the owner and ten employees of a petroleum transporting enterprise. On 29th December, the members of the community buried the victims and conducted a funeral for them. 

As the local residents mourn the death of their people, they also live under the constant fear of more attacks, especially during the time when they are struggling to fulfill their basic survival needs. Additional problems are caused by freezing temperatures in winters. A local resident stated that the whole village has left to either reside in nearby towns or are hiding in the forests.

Response of international community: The EU calls for preventive action

In the wake of the Kayah state killings, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated that the appalling act of violence perpetrated by the military regime on the unarmed civilian and humanitarian workforce depicts an immediate need for accountability of the military junta. According to the European Union, in order to deal with escalating situation in Myanmar, robust international preventive action is necessary. The bloc has called for an international arms embargo and is all set to impose further sanctions against the military junta. In the aftermath of the military coup in the country, the bloc enacted targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s army, officials, and entities. Additionally, the EU halted its financial assistance to the government, inclusive of aid that could be viewed as legitimizing the military junta. 

The EU assists the efforts of the United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar and the ASEAN Five Point Consensus that seeks to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing situation in the country. Furthermore, the bloc continues to allocate humanitarian aid to Myanmar, in compliance with the standards of neutrality, equity, and independence. Joseph Borrell asserted that attacking or assaulting civilians and humanitarian workers is not acceptable and represent a blatant violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. Further, he demanded safe and unhindered access of humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar and called for the complete protection of workers and healthcare personnel. In 2021, the EU provided assistance worth €24.5 million to deal with the urgent needs of displaced populations and conflict-ridden communities, as well as those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. An additional aid worth €65 million was allocated to support the livelihood of people, education, healthcare, etc.

The response of the international community

In response to atrocities in Myanmar, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinked has called for an arms embargo on Myanmar’s military junta and urged a global condemnation and response to the situation. To prevent the recurrence of such events, the US has put an end to the sale of weapons and dual-use technology to the regime. Currently, the largest exporter of weapons to Myanmar is China, followed by India and Russia. China accounts for 48% of Myanmar’s arms procurements, India 16%, and Russia 15%.

In the aftermath of the military coup in Myanmar, Borell has accused China and Russia of restricting an effective global response. He asserted that Beijing is only interested in the protection of its strategic goals in the country. As of June 2021, China and Russia were the only UNSC members to veto the Resolution that called for a binding international arms embargo to Myanmar.

The UN top humanitarian affairs official has also condemned the incident terming it ‘grievous.’ All-together, the international community has stressed a tougher and more transparent investigation of the attacks on the civilians. UN envoy to Myanmar Noeleen Neyzer has also pushed for a ‘New Year ceasefire’ across the state.

Written By: Olivium's Staff


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