Nepal’s civil rights activists, writers, lawyers, professors and diplomats have called on their government to take a stand against the ongoing killings of pro-democracy protesters by the military junta in Burma.
In a statement on Sunday, they appealed to the Nepal government as well as the international community to voice their criticism of the Burmese military.
‘We are proud of the Myanmar people’s valorous stand for democracy, appalled by the murderous suppression by the Tatmadaw military, and distressed by the lack of adequate response from the governments of South Asia and globally,’ the statement reads.
The press release ‘urgently calls upon the Government of Nepal to stand up for democratic values and on the side of the people of Myanmar who are engaged in an uprising’.
Kathmandu has seen phases of demonstrations in support of the people of Burma, latest on 28 March, calling for an end to violence.
‘We stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar,’ tweeted writer Narayan Wagle, as he stood with a group of protesters outside the Burmese embassy in Kathmandu on Sunday.
Over the past two months, Burma has seen a spate of violence, leading to the killing of more than 300 people. On 27 March, itself, 91 pro-democracy activists were killed as the junta celebrated Myanmar Armed Forces Day amidst a show of strength as the military made the rounds of the Yangon city centre.
‘We are shocked that the diplomats of several countries attended the Armed Forces Day ceremony even as the military has gone berserk massacring peaceful protestors’ the statement by the civil society further reads.
On 27 March, Burmese state-run television ran a government announcement that people could be ‘shot in the head or on the back’ for demonstrating. Images and footage in the media show the army pulling down barricades to go into residential areas to make arrests, and shooting and injuring peaceful protestors. The videos have sparked outrage on social media inside Burma and across the world.
While the state media has muted news about arrests, it has emerged from various sources that extensive arrests have been made, nabbing activists, politicians, any intellectual who appear to threaten the existence of the Tatmadaw or the military junta.
The National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu-Kyi has been under arrest now for two month, and there are reports of brutal treatment of detainees in jail.
‘The government must help organise a deliberate and integrated international response to force the junta that is led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to immediately reverse its takeover and abide by the results of the November 2020 elections,’ the statement issued by Nepali civil society members says.
In the backdrop of the violence in Burma, the international response has been mostly absent. In 2018, Amnesty International had revoked Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize over Burma’s treatment of the Rohingya refugees.
‘The appalling treatment of the Rohingya community and the spectre of massive statelessness is the result, we believe, of the stifling of the democratic urge of the government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu-Kyi against the backdrop of military power,’ the statement from Nepal on Sunday further says, putting in spotlight the complex ethnic politics of Myanmar.
While the military shot at the citizens at random in cities like Yangon last week, the Rohingya refugees who have been in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh since they were evicted in 2017, was engulfed by a massive inferno that destroyed their temporary homes, with no real count of the number of death of losses from the disaster emerging.
A coordinated international campaign to restore peace and constitutional order in Burma has appeared imperative in the face of the ongoing crisis. Unlike in the past, the current crisis has seen extensive response from the youth, especially women, who have taken to the streets or have banged their utensils from their homes every evening to protest the military rule.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday issued a statement demanding the security forces in Myanmar to halt ‘their vicious crackdown on peaceful protestors’.
‘Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protestors,’ Bachelet said. ‘It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country. I am also appalled at the documented attacks against emergency medical staff and ambulances attempting to provide care to those who have been injured.’
Burma was under the British until 1948, and under military rule from 1962 to 2011, following which an elected government was installed. The Southeast Asian country is rich in natural resources, from its rivers to lumber to gems, as well as natural gas, which has always had its fate at crossroads with different powers trying to exploit those resources at the expense of the innocent civillians.
Burma had begun to see peace and an improved economic situation after 2011, as a quasi-democracy introduced socio-political changes. But in February 2021, a military coup pushed back the people’s achievement brought about by the people’s uprisings of 1988, 1996 and 2007.
A nation with diverse ethnicity, Burma has continued to struggle with developing a national identity, beginning right from the name it is known by. ‘Burma’ was given by the British rulers after the majority Burmese people, which is often rejected by other ethnic minorities, who also do not prefer ‘Myanmar’ which is a formalised version of ‘Burma’, introduced by the military.
‘The divides that remain between the various ethnic groups of Myanmar can only be resolved under the aegis of a pluralistic, accountable state and a supportive international environment,’ reads the statement issued by the Nepali civil society. ‘We urge the world community to play its role in helping remove all authority given to the Tatmadaw by the Constitution of 2008 in the hope of peace and gradual transition, which it has misused continuously against the interests of the people of Myanmar.’