Myanmar, or Burma, on May 1st entered its fourth month under a brutal military regime. That regime has killed more than 700 citizens and innocent civilians since it seized power on February 1. That was the very day a newly elected democratically parliament in Myanmar was about to hold its initial meeting.
The Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for a closed U.N. Security Council meeting April 30 on the Myanmar crisis. It was designed to appeal for:
- An immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar
- A dialogue between all concerned parties there being mediated by an ASEAN special envoy who would immediately visit Myanmar and meet with all concerned parties
- Provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels.
ASEAN focuses on and seeks to promote economic and diplomatic cooperation among ten nations in South East Asia. They are: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Two observer countries are Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste.
Confronting the current crisis
The sad state of Myanmar under the new military dictatorship has directly endangered not only its 62 million citizens but even its diplomats in faraway lands ordered to immediately return home.
As the second secretary of the Myanmar Embassy in Washington, Thet Htar Mya Yee San, put it in a lead op-ed column in the Washington Post on April 29:
“I work in the foreign service of my homeland, Myanmar, in our embassy here. I decided to become a diplomat to represent my country and its interests overseas. I have always been proud of my job.
“Yet now I find myself in the strange position of opposing our own government — or to be more precise, the people who claim to be our government now.” (Recall that on February 1, the military seized power, deposing the elected civilian government and arresting its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi).
Ten days after the Myanmar February coup, the Biden administration issued a statement saying: “In a democracy, force should never overrule the will of the people. Burma’s military should immediately restore the democratically government elected last November 8, end the state of emergency, release all those unjustly detained, and ensure that peaceful protestors are not met with violence.”
Washington also announced it would re-direct $42.4 million of assistance designed to benefit Burma, while maintaining support for “for health care, civil society groups there and other areas that benefit the Burmese people directly.”
Working through private enterprise channels, “USAID will continue its support of the Burmese people with approximately $69 million in bilateral programs.” Among these: fostering food security, supporting independent media, and promoting reconciliation in conflict-affected regions.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More