New military coup in Myanmar a growing threat

New military coup in Myanmar a growing threat

New military coup in Myanmar a growing threat
Above, a monastery destroyed by a Burmese military airstrike in Papun, Karen state, Myanmar. (Free Burma Rangers)
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As the crisis in Myanmar continues to escalate, with the military losing ground to the People’s Defense Force and other insurgent factions, the specter of another military coup looms ominously over the nation. The disquiet among senior military officers, some of whom have defected, regarding the leadership of Prime Minister Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing underscores the fragility of the current junta’s grip on power. However, what is even more alarming is the prospect that any new coup leader might be even more brutal and repressive than the current regime.

The past year has witnessed a remarkable display of resilience and defiance from the people of Myanmar. In the face of escalating violence and widespread human rights abuses perpetrated by the military regime, they have continued to demand democracy and justice. The emergence of the People’s Defense Force, many of whose fighters are civilians and disgruntled military personnel, has further complicated the situation for the junta. With each passing day, the regime finds itself increasingly isolated and on the defensive.

Yet, amid the chaos and uncertainty, the possibility of another military coup cannot be discounted. The fracturing of the military establishment, as evidenced by defections and dissent among senior officers, has created a fertile ground for internal power struggles. Hlaing’s leadership has come under intense scrutiny, with growing disillusionment over his handling of the crisis and his failure to quell the insurgency. This discontent within the ranks of the military could potentially pave the way for a coup orchestrated by disaffected generals seeking to assert control.

However, the prospect of a new military regime coming to power is a chilling one, particularly considering the escalating brutality unleashed upon civilians by the current junta. There is a genuine fear that any new leader emerging from a coup could adopt even harsher measures to suppress dissent and maintain control. The atrocities committed against peaceful protesters, including arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings, serve as a stark reminder of the ruthlessness of the military’s tactics.

The international community must not underestimate the potential ramifications of another military coup in Myanmar. The crisis has already sparked a humanitarian catastrophe, with millions facing displacement, food insecurity and persecution. A new wave of violence unleashed by a reinvigorated military regime could exacerbate the suffering of the civilian population and plunge the country into further turmoil.

It is imperative that the international community, and particularly the region, take proactive steps to prepare for such a scenario. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as a regional bloc, must play a central role in coordinating a concerted response to the crisis in Myanmar. While efforts to engage with the junta diplomatically have thus far yielded limited results, ASEAN must demonstrate firmness and unity in its approach to the situation.

This discontent within the ranks of the military could pave the way for a coup orchestrated by disaffected generals

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

First and foremost, ASEAN must reaffirm its commitment to the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The bloc should unequivocally condemn any attempts to subvert the will of the people through military means and call for the restoration of civilian-led governance in Myanmar. ASEAN’s credibility as a regional arbiter hinges on its ability to uphold these fundamental values in the face of tyranny and oppression.

Additionally, ASEAN should explore avenues for diplomatic mediation and dialogue to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the crisis. This could involve convening talks between the junta, the civilian opposition and other relevant stakeholders to negotiate a way forward. While the prospects for dialogue may seem bleak at present, sustained diplomatic pressure, coupled with incentives for cooperation, could eventually yield tangible results.

Furthermore, ASEAN must be prepared to deploy humanitarian assistance to mitigate the suffering of the civilian population in the event of renewed violence. This includes providing essential aid such as food, shelter and medical supplies to those affected by conflict and displacement. ASEAN member states should also be ready to offer refuge to those fleeing persecution in Myanmar, demonstrating solidarity and compassion in the face of adversity.

At the same time, the international community must send a clear message to the military junta that any further escalation of violence will not be tolerated. This may entail imposing targeted sanctions on individuals and entities complicit in human rights abuses, as well as intensifying pressure through multilateral forums such as the UN. The junta must understand that there are consequences for its actions and that the world is watching closely.

The possibility of another military coup in Myanmar is a stark reality that cannot be ignored. As the junta continues to lose ground to insurgent forces and faces internal dissent, the risk of a power grab by disaffected military officers looms large. However, the international community, and ASEAN in particular, must be prepared to confront this scenario head-on. By reaffirming its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and by actively engaging with all stakeholders to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis, ASEAN can help avert further bloodshed and suffering in Myanmar. The time to act is now.

• Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is the director of special initiatives at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington, DC. X: @AzeemIbrahim

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