SINGAPORE: The Myanmar military still buckles under international pressure, even if it has said in the past that it is impervious to it, said the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, on Monday (Feb 8).
Such pressure include economic and diplomatic sanctions and these work, Mr Andrews pointed out, “because they have worked”.
“We know in the past, the military has said that they’re impervious to international pressure … But we’ve learned that that’s not true. They do care, they do want to engage in the international economy,” Mr Andrews told CNA.
“They want to make money. They want to be prosperous. They understand the consequences of a country being in deep isolation as Myanmar was for so long,” he added.
Mr Andrews was speaking about a week after the Myanmar military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as other senior officials from the National League for Democracy party.
It swiftly seized power after the arrests, which it said were in response to “election fraud”, and imposed a one-year state of emergency.
On Feb 6, Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, became the first known foreign national to be arrested since the coup.
Thousands have since taken to the streets of Myanmar to denounce the military regime, prompting the authorities to use force to quell the crowds, including firing water cannon at demonstrators gathered on a highway in capital Naypyidaw.
“The people of Myanmar now understand the difference as well,” said Mr Andrews. “And they have no intention of going back. So, we have seen it work in the past. I think it could work again.
“I know that leaders around the world are discussing the application of a new round of economic sanctions. I think that’s all to the good.”
Mr Andrews said it is important for there to be an “unmistakable signal” to the Myanmar military, “that anything and everything that they do, they will be held accountable”.
The use of water cannon is a “distressing sign”, said the UN expert.
“The use of violence by the military is unacceptable … It must be stopped and the international community will do everything they can to protect the people and their fundamental human rights,” he said.
“We are on the side of the protesters who are there on the streets, demonstrating for their future for their children and for their basic rights.”