Chris Sidoti comments on the Myanmar military Armed Forces Day Massacre in The Sydney Morning Herald
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has joined with 45 former country leaders and foreign ministers from around the world in calling on the United Nations to intervene to stop the bloodbath in Myanmar, saying “we don’t have any other card left to play”.
As the death toll in the two months since the Myanmar military seized power climbed beyond 500, Rudd told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Tuesday the UN needed to step in urgently to protect the Burmese people from further slaughter at the hands of the junta.
The worst bloodshed since the coup coincided with Armed Forces Day, when troops paraded in the Myanmar capital, Naypyitaw.
As a member of the Global Leadership Foundation he has endorsed a letter from its chairman, former South Africa president FW de Klerk, to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres imploring him to convene an emergency session of the UN Security Council about Myanmar.
The letter also calls on the security council to invoke its Responsibility to Protect principle, agreed in 2005 to safeguard populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in their own country, and act as a coalition to bring the killing in Myanmar to an end.
“There has been backdoor political contact with the junta in order to try and find a way through and selective sanctions have been embraced against the Burmese military. But with the mass casualties which occurred a couple of days ago across the country on Armed Forces Day [on Saturday], it’s quite plain that we’ve now reached a tipping point,” said Rudd, who is also president and chief executive of the Asia Society, a not-for-profit.
“We don’t have any other card left to play, that’s the bottom line.”
Protesters gather tires to add to the fires set during a rally against the military coup in Tarmwe township, Yangon, Myanmar, on Armed Forces Day.
Myanmar media reported 149 deaths including 14 children over the weekend alone, revising upwards the number of casualties in an intensification in violence in which a man was reportedly burnt alive in Mandalay and air strikes were carried out on villages near the Thai border.
As the massacre of protesters continues this week Rudd and the Global Leadership Foundation, whose members include former foreign minister Gareth Evans and ex-New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark as vice-chair, believe an immediate response by the UN is now the only option to confront the crisis.
“The military junta in Myanmar cannot be permitted to persist with this carnage and defy the wishes and aspirations of the people of Myanmar,” de Klerk wrote to Guterres. “The United Nations has a clear responsibility to stop them from doing so.”
Russia and China’s veto power as permanent members of the security council presents an obstacle to a consensus on Myanmar, let alone the potential deployment of a peacekeeping force. Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin attended a parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital Naypyidaw on Saturday, rubbing shoulders with junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as security forces around the country killed more people than on any other day since the February 1 coup. Security council members India and Vietnam were among seven other countries to send representatives.
However, Russia was “very concerned” about the violence against civilians, according to a Kremlin spokesman, and Rudd said: “I believe the mood of the council needs to be tested”.
“I do not believe that either Moscow or Beijing want to be seen in the eyes of the international community protecting the Burmese junta if what we’ve seen is a pathway to mass violence by the junta,” he said.
He added that in pressing for UN action, “the Australian government should be in there, boots and all on this as well”.
While China initially referred to the crackdown by the military in Myanmar as an internal issue, it agreed to the release of a rare UN security council presidential statement this month condemning the violence, as did Russia.
Chris Sidoti, a member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar and former UN investigator into atrocities committed against the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority, said Russia should be outraged.
“I would think Russia would be very concerned that they sent their deputy defence minister to the Armed Forces Day parade and the military turned on a massacre to mark the occasion,” he said.