The international community must get real about Myanmar

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand hold the pictures of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they protest outside Myanmar’s embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 26. International outrage over Myanmar’s execution of four political prisoners is intensifying with grassroots protests and strong condemnation from world governments. Associated Press/Sakchai Lalit

Less than two years ago, on Feb. 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup d’etat. Since then, international headlines might have faded, but the situation in the country has only become more desperate. The junta has killed and arrested thousands, while pushing the country to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, all with the outright support of China and Russia.

Meanwhile, the U.S., the European Union, and other supporters of Myanmar’s democratic resistance have thus far mainly issued statements of concern. As lawmakers from different countries, we are deeply frustrated by the lack of action by governments around the world. The international community can and must do more, before Myanmar is pushed over an edge it cannot come back from.

The coup in 2021 ended a decade-long power sharing agreement between the military and civilian leaders, although one heavily tilted in the army’s favor. Even so, the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, soon felt too threatened by the electoral success of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and decided to seize power outright. The aftermath of the coup has been as brutal as it has been chaotic.

The junta has killed more than 2,000 people, many of them peaceful protesters. More than 15,000 people have been arrested, among them Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD’s leader, and scores of prominent democracy and human rights activists. Myanmar is also facing a humanitarian crisis, with government services and the economy collapsing, and more than 1.2 million people internally displaced from the army’s brutal crackdown across the country.

The people of Myanmar have, however, continued to fight back against military rule. Across the country, a Civil Disobedience Movement has organized itself, including unions, doctors, teachers, students and other citizens from all walks of life. A National Unity Government (NUG), composed of civil society and political representatives, has led the political struggle from exile. Meanwhile, in Myanmar’s border areas, Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) have continued to resist the junta. They function as de facto states within the state, providing services and governance, as well as safe havens for pro-democracy activists fleeing from other parts of the country.