Friday, 1 July 2022

Humanitarian Intervention in Myanmar


On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military staged a coup to depose the government formed by the

National League for Democracy (NLD), which had come to power after winning national elections

in November 2020. There have been mass protests against the junta and for the restoration of

democracy. Hundreds of people have been killed in these protests. There have been appeals from

the citizens to the international community for the ‘Responsibility to Protect.’ As per this, the

international must do everything possible to defend the lives of innocent people in governments that

are either incapable or unwilling to do so, or are actively assaulting them.

The UN has publicly condemned the military junta and realises that there has to be a prominent

increase in humanitarian aid and it should be distributed through International NGOs and Civil

Society Organisations on the ground. Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur said that “the

responsibility to protect meant going in to protect, in the best way possible, which has the highest

impact on the junta, but more importantly the least negative impact on the people of Myanmar.” 1 He

further said that the Responsibility to Protect also extends to sheltering refugees who are fleeing for

their lives. The neighbouring countries need to protect and provide for them and the international

community needs to assist the countries.

To avoid appearing to recognise the military junta's authority, the UN refers to them as "de facto

authorities" and limits its involvement with army generals. This nonrecognition sends a strong

message to the world community that the junta's unlawful takeover of power will not be tolerated. It

also raises pressure on the junta to seek a peaceful end to the issue by isolating it. The Security

Council has called for restraint and dialogue. However, it has failed to explicitly call for a reversal

of the coup, preferring instead to push for the release of the previous political leadership. 2 It has also

refused to emphasise the necessity of accountability or to support the concept of retaliating if the

junta does not comply with its requests. There have been considerable calls for the Security Council

to take more forceful measures, including an arms embargo, targeted sanctions, and a referral to the

International Criminal Court, however, they are unlikely to be passed as they might be vetoed by

Russia and China.

1 (2021). MYANMAR CRISIS: Stand with the people and protect them, urges UN rights expert. UN News.

2 Lilly, D. (2021). The UN’s Response to the Human Rights Crisis after the Coup in Myanmar: Destined to Fail?

International Peace Institute. 10.


In an ASEAN summit on April 24 th , a five-point consensus plan to address the crisis was laid “(1) an

immediate cessation of violence; (2) constructive dialogue among all parties to seek a peaceful

solution; (3) the appointment of a special envoy to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process; (4)

provision of humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian

Assistance on Disaster Management (5) a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy and delegation to

meet with all parties concerned.” 3 There was no time frame adopted yet it was appreciated as an

initiative toward a political solution to the crisis.

Since 2006, the situation in Myanmar has been on the Security Council's agenda. The council, on

the other hand, has never passed a resolution on Myanmar due to resistance from China and Russia

who are the permanent members. The UN's ability to monitor, document, report, and evaluate

human rights violations has not kept pace with the problem's magnitude. The UN's reaction, both as

an international organisation and as a system of operational bodies, has been tragically inadequate

in comparison to the scope and severity of human rights atrocities occurring in Myanmar.

India condemned the violence in Myanmar, and Mr. Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to

the UN remarked that for the situation to be resolved peacefully, there was a need for “greater

engagement” with Myanmar. 4 It was a message to the US-led Western bloc from India, that putting

more sanctions on Myanmar will not reverse the current crisis. Previously too, when the

international community strongly condemned the brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s junta and called

for rigid sanctions, India consistently maintained that all initiatives ‘should be forward-looking,

non-condemnatory and seek to engage the Government of Myanmar in a non-intrusive and

constructive manner.’

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