Bloodiest day for Burmese civilians, India attends military parade of coup leaders

New Delhi: India was among only eight countries that chose to send a representative to attend the Myanmar Armed Forces Day military parade in Naypyitaw on March 27, a day in which the country’s military shot and killed at least 90 civilians, with some reports putting the death toll at 114.

Weeks of protests and a deadly crackdown have rocked the country since the February 1 coup brought down full military rule. The death toll before Saturday’s bloodshed was estimated at more than 400.

Indian officials confirmed that India’s military attaché witnessed the massive parade. The date marks the 76th anniversary of the resistance of the Burmese National Army against the Japanese occupiers during World War II.

None of the other countries that sent representatives to the official Myanmar military parade despite the coup and rising civilian casualties would be considered democratic by Western or Indian (traditional) standards – China, Pakistan, Bangladesh , Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Russia. Russia was represented by its deputy defense minister, while the others sent representatives from their local embassy.

As news of foreign missions participating in the official parade emerged, pro-democracy protesters were immediately condemned on social media.

A verified Twitter account of the Myanmar pro-democracy movement asked why India, “one of the greatest democracies in the world,” sent a representative to “shake hands with generals whose hands are soaked in our blood” .

In a strongly worded statement, the spokesperson for an anti-junta group of elected NLD lawmakers, known as the “Committee representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw” (CRPH), described Saturday as a “day of shame for [the] armed forced ”. “I cannot express enough the pain that all the people of Myanmar have to see today foreign diplomats alongside Min Aung Hlaing and his henchmen” as innocent people “were being murdered all over the country,” he said. he wrote, adding: “The foreign diplomats who attended this shameful day of the armed forces are a disgrace to their own people, their governments and the international community”.

Indian officials said Thread that the United States had been pushing for countries not to participate in Myanmar Armed Forces Day. Whether in response to Washington’s call or their own assessment that the presence of foreign military officers could embolden the regime in its current crackdown, most countries with diplomatic presence there preferred to stay away from it. deviation from the event.

According to media reports, during the parade, Chief General Min Aung Hlaing reiterated that elections would be held but did not give a timetable.

“The military is seeking to join the whole nation in safeguarding democracy,” he said, during a live broadcast on state television, Reuters reported. “Violent acts that affect stability and security to make demands are inappropriate.”

Indian officials reject the suggestion that the optics of India’s presence at the event were problematic, pointing to the “conversations” that Western diplomats and military leaders have had with the Tatmadaw, the official name of the army in Burmese.

The comparison seems ill-fitting given that these conversations are not public and are part of the international community’s efforts to get the Burmese military to change course – and that would not be seen by the country’s beleaguered civilians as an endorsement of the Rebellion.

According to The IrrawaddySaturday marked the highest single-day death toll since the February coup. The Myanmar News Portal recorded the deaths of 102 people, including four children, in ten of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the crackdown, which resulted in the highest daily death toll, was “unacceptable”. Calling for a “firm, unified and resolute international response”, Mr Guterres said it was “essential to find an urgent solution to this crisis”.

In the early hours of February 1, the Burmese army declared a state of emergency. He arrested all elected lawmakers, including State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, on the grounds that there were electoral irregularities in the November general election. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had won an overwhelming mandate in the polls, while the military-backed USDP was marginalized.

India’s first reaction after the takeover was to express its “deep concern” and assert that “the rule of law and the democratic process” must be respected.

Following the coup, Myanmar was almost crippled by street protests, which met with heavy security repression. The embassy had February 28 issued a brief statement expressing its “sincere condolences to the families and relatives of the deceased”. “We urge all to exercise restraint and resolve issues through dialogue in a peaceful manner,” he added.

India has so far not issued a stand-alone statement condemning the killing of civilians by the Myanmar military, despite being a party to a strongly worded resolution at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. ‘UN.

At the informal UN General Assembly meeting on Myanmar, India reaffirmed its position on reestablishing the elected government. India’s envoy to the UN called for the release of all detainees and hoped that “Myanmar’s progress in recent decades on the path to democracy should not be compromised.”

As a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, India has been active in shaping some of the terms of the documents released in New York. However, the P-5 countries, especially the UK as Myanmar’s pen-bearers, are the main players.

So far, the UNSC has issued a press release in February and a presidential statement this month, both adopted by consensus. This means that while China and Russia have publicly declared that developments in Myanmar are an internal affair of the country, they have also supported the actions of the UNSC.

Likewise, the UN Human Rights Council passed a consensus resolution on Myanmar that “condemns in the strongest terms” the February 1 military takeover. The 47 members of the UN body, which includes India, China, Russia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, also condemned “the disproportionate use of force, including indiscriminate use of deadly force, by the Myanmar armed forces and police ”.

India’s reluctance to take a strong stand against repression in Myanmar reflects both the traditional reluctance of the Foreign Ministry to avoid raising concerns about the human rights situation in other countries, as well as his concerns about the Burmese army’s willingness to play China’s card.

Prior to the current crisis, New Delhi believed Myanmar’s generals had recognized the dangers of over-reliance on China and was keen to calibrate their position. However, the February 1 coup meant that the Burmese military is back in the arms of the UNSC, brandishing the arms of China, to be safe from adverse international backlash. India’s calculations now are guided by the belief that China should not just benefit from Myanmar’s diplomatic isolation from the west.

As Myanmar’s neighbor, New Delhi has always sought to take a more nuanced stance on the Southeast Asian nation rather than following in the footsteps of the US and the EU. During the current crisis, India has already told its interlocutors in Western capitals that sanctions against Myanmar would not be helpful.

The presence of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam at Saturday’s military parade in Naypyitaw also signals the fact that ASEAN is divided over Myanmar. Some ASEAN countries – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – have called for an urgent summit on Myanmar, but it is still unclear whether it will take place.

At the initiative of Indonesia and Malaysia, an informal ASEAN meeting was held on March 2 via video conference. While urging all parties in Myanmar to show “the utmost restraint and flexibility,” the president’s statement said there was no consensus in the regional body on the calls for the release of political detainees and the annulment of the coup.

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