It will soon be one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the world is still bickering about exactly what to do about it. That is all very depressing, but at least the world IS talking about Ukraine. Whereas Burma, also known as Myanmar, is now approaching two years of being controlled by a ruthless military dictatorship and no one of any import on the international scene seems to actually give a f*ck.
Oh, there are occasional platitudes, but there is absolutely no interest in actually helping the people of Burma, who are being murdered in considerable quantities by their own military as they fight to re-establish some sort of answerable government. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising when we remember that quite a lot of countries have industries that are actively assisting the Burma military with their killing of their own people.
A recent report by the Special Advisory Council on Myanmar has highlighted that Burma’s extensive military industry, which notably doesn’t export anything, was not just entirely built up with imported equipment and expertise but continues to be sustained by them despite notional sanctions. Most notable has been efforts to improve the military’s production lines by importing equipment such as CNC machines and also getting manufacturing equipment repaired and serviced abroad which is known to be being used to make weapons and ammunition that is then being used to kill protestors and civilians.
The report highlights that companies in thirteen countries are assisting the Burma military in this, with these being located in – amongst others – the United States, France, Russia, China, Israel, Singapore and India. These deals are in the words of Yanghee Lee, one of the report’s authors and a former UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar:
“…enabling the Myanmar military – one of the world’s worst human rights abusers – to produce many of the weapons it uses to commit daily atrocities against the Myanmar people.”
She further added that:
“Foreign companies and their home states have moral and legal responsibilities to ensure their products are not facilitating human rights violations against civilians in Myanmar. Failing to do so makes them complicit in the Myanmar military’s barbaric crimes.”
Very true, though I am not going to be holding my breathe on anything actually happening.
So, the atrocities continue, most notably with air strikes. In the last couple of weeks alone there have been strikes reported all across the country that have killed civilians, a tactic that in the least indicates indiscriminate attacks, but looks suspiciously like deliberate targeting. On the 12th of January the aid group Free Burma Rangers reported that a village was bombed in Karen State, Eastern Burma, hitting two churches and a school and killing five civilians, including a mother and her baby, and injuring two more.
And just a few days ago in Sagaing province, located in the centre of the country, 15,000 people have had to flee as the Burma army followed up air strikes on villages with a large scale offensive that is reported to be burning villages in its wake.
Following reports of cross-border activity by the Myanmar Air Force earlier today, Myanmar Witness has geolocated footage of the airstrikes filmed from the Indian side of the border.
— Myanmar Witness (@MyanmarWitness) January 10, 2023
On top of all this at least four airstrikes have occurred in Chin State, Western Burma, in the first two weeks of this month, killing an unknown number of people and causing hundreds to flee into neighbouring India. Of particularly note here is that witnesses claim that the Burmese aircraft have conducted strikes in Indian territory itself as well as using Indian airspace to make their attack runs on other targets, events that have noticeable not caused any comment from Delhi.
Indeed, this marks a continuation of a pattern, with the Myanmar Air Force already accused of violating the air space of neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh to attack targets.
Any one of the events I cited earlier – which I should point out are just a few examples of the many that are constantly occurring – should have drawn widespread international condemnation.
JUST IN: Myanmar regime's Air Force has carried out an air strike near Moetalay village of Katha township in northern Sagaing region, reportedly aiming at the base camp of the All Burma Students Defense Force after the images of their military training went viral four days ago. pic.twitter.com/PujGWveE97
— Chindwin News Agency (@TheChindwin) January 18, 2023
Indeed, in other situations of such blatant brutality you would get calls and action on establishing a no fly zone – as occurred in Iraq – or else the supply of at the very least anti-aircraft weapon systems to those under attack, such as we are seeing currently in Ukraine. But the muted reactions in these cases, especially where Burma military aircraft have entered neighbouring countries airspace spells out the reality of the situation; said neighbouring countries are perfectly happy to ignore what is going on and continue to deal with the military junta that runs Burma.
And if the report from SAC is even half accurate, which it certainly appears to be, then plenty of other countries are also happy to turn a blind eye and carry on with business as usual.
To be honest, I’ve been involved with Burma for years now, and always known that as a rule of thumb, the international community never really gave much of a shit. But the hand wringing and wailing over one set of events, while another is utterly ignored, looks to me of a situation not just of indifference, but one of utter hypocrisy.