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Role of global corporates in Myanmar’s torment

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Resistance fighters in Myanmar

Two years into the military recapturing power, there does not seem to be a let-up to the torment of the people of Myanmar. The latter are putting up sustained and spirited armed opposition to the military but the ruling junta is yet to contemplate backing down from its harshly repressive treatment of the resisting public.

Thus far, some 2,600 Myanmarese have been killed since the military coup of February 20, 2021. The latest reports from the provinces are that the military is making little headway in its efforts to quell the civilian resistors who have come together in a collectivity known as the People’s Defence Forces. International TV footage illustrates in disquieting detail the rising suffering of the people in the military crackdown, which has apparently grown in brutality. Evidence is abundant that the most heartrending casualties are women and children.

The more sensitive sections of the international community have begun to look askance at the UN in these unprecedented times of tribulation for Myanmar, but to no avail. After all, it should come as no surprise if the UN Security Council seems to be suffering from a species of inner paralysis in this crisis because China and Russia could be counted on to oppose any moves by the rest of the UNSC to step-up pressure on the Myanmarese military to prevent it from persisting in its repressive course.

Besides, the international community would need the cooperation of ASEAN to be of greater assistance to the people of Myanmar. However, with ASEAN preferring to pursue what seems to be a ‘gradualist approach’ to managing the crisis with the assistance and engagement of the junta, quick international action to ease the suffering of the Mynamarese could not be expected at this juncture.

The ‘wake-up call’ is to democratic opinion the world over and not merely to the West. It ought to be plain that the democratic process in Myanmar has been dangerously disrupted once again and that the people of Myanmar must be assisted by the democratic world to regain their inalienable rights.

Further crippling sanctions on the junta need to be implemented and in view of the obduracy of the latter it would be in order for international democratic forces to succor the resistance in Myanmar in particularly the short and medium terms, in the manner in which Ukraine’s resistance is being backed at present by like-minded quarters. However, all needs to be done with a view to restoring the democratic process in Myanmar. A democratic Myanmar is the final end that needs to be sought.

Meanwhile, Myanmar must be prevented from degenerating into another East-West proxy war. This needs to be guarded against in view of the mounting suffering of the Myanmarese people. Hopefully, the junta would come to recognize that it would be a ‘no win’ situation for all sections that matter in Myanmar and opt in earnest for a negotiated settlement.

The hope of the peace-loving world is likely to be that the ‘writing on the wall’ would be understood by all the permanent members of the UNSC. If they could bring themselves to act unitedly in the name of a political settlement, Myanmar’s suffering could be mitigated swiftly.

As they go along, all stakeholders would need to take into consideration the utter material poverty of Myanmar. As matters stand, it is among the poorest of the poor of the world. It is in fact worse off than Sri Lanka, which could be currently described as a ‘number one international mendicant’.

However, as in the case of Sri Lanka, Myanmar’s statistics ‘bleed’. In 2017, 24.8 percent of its population lived below the natural poverty line. For every 1000 babies born in 2021, 42 died before their 5th birthday, it is reported, for example. However, the country’s ruling junta shows no signs of reining-in its proclivity to beef-up its defences.

While China and Russia are Myanmar’s principal international allies, the indications are that its arms supply chains cut across the East-West frontier and link-up with global arms manufacturers in both major political hemispheres. That is, some major arms manufacturers and corporates the world over today readily supply arms or their parts to Myanmar, whom many of their government officially tend to shun as an international outcast of sorts.

Detailed disclosures are provided on this score by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), a body of international experts on Myanmar, which has set itself the task of supporting Myanmar ‘In its fight for human rights, peace, democracy, justice and accountability.’ It calls for ‘a global three-cut strategy against the Myanmar junta: cut the weapons, cut the cash and cut the imports.’

In a study titled, ‘Fatal Business: Supplying the Myanmar Military’s Weapons Production’, SAC-M reveals, among other things, that machines produced by some companies in Austria, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and the US, to name a few such countries, are used by the Myanmar military in manufacturing sophisticated weaponry in its local factories. All such deals are clinched in violation of international arms trade control treaties.

Thus, it could be seen that global arms manufacturers, both East and West, are ‘getting a sizeable cut’ out of the suffering and hunger of the people of Myanmar. The profit motive and business avarice of some corporates in the arms manufacturing business, that is, are no respecters of International Law and shun as irrelevant all moral scruples. Small wonder that the turmoil in Myanmar and like suffering in other war zones are continuing.

The SAC-M’s timely revelations should be utilized by global democratic opinion to kick-start their world- wide campaigns for the control and restriction of lethal arms manufacture and proliferation. The West, led by the US, needs to take the lead in this drive to rein-in global arms manufacturers whose avarice to make ‘a quick buck’ out of human fear and suffering seems to know no bounds.

While it stands to reason that power struggles and squabbles among most permanent members of the UNSC very often make it difficult for the latter to work unitedly towards resolving issues in the world’s conflict and war zones, nothing prevents them from restraining their countries’ arms producers from acting in violation of the law in the pursuit of profit at any cost. Such acts of humanity could help in bringing relief to long-suffering publics, such as those in Myanmar.

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