Myanmar’s military coup has unleashed a wave of violence, instability, and immense human suffering, with no apparent resolution in sight. Despite facing violent oppression and mass arrests, a diverse group of pro-democracy actors is now engaged in an armed struggle against the military. The struggle encompasses not only ousting the brutal military junta from power but also creating a foundation for a more inclusive, federal governance system.
As the international community looks on, foreign governments must acknowledge that a return to the status quo predating the national uprising is no longer a viable option, argues veteran diplomat Scot Marciel, the Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow at APARC. In an article published by the International Journal of Public Theology, Marciel, a former U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar, offers insights into the hurdles the nation must overcome and the role the international community can play in supporting its pursuit of democracy.
The heart of Myanmar's struggle lies in addressing two simultaneous challenges, explains Marciel. Firstly, the urgent task of ousting the oppressive military junta from power demands a united effort from the international community. Marciel highlights the importance of bolstering engagement with the pro-democracy National Unity Government and providing essential funding to strengthen its operations and communications. Additionally, the international community can play a significant role in mitigating the junta's reliance on airpower, which has led to an unprecedented number of civilian casualties. Marciel suggests offering technology, hardware, or tactical training to counter these aerial assaults.
Beyond toppling the military junta, Marciel emphasizes the need to confront Myanmar's long-neglected, fundamental issues to establish a sustainable democratic future. One of the most critical challenges is redefining the role of the military and security forces in a democratic government. Marciel argues that crafting a comprehensive security sector reform plan is imperative to transitioning to a federal military structure that includes diverse ethnic groups.
Ethnic and religious identity divisions have long plagued Myanmar. The national uprising has initiated a process of unifying resistance groups, but significant efforts are still required to build trust among different communities and forge a cohesive national identity.
Addressing post-crisis challenges is equally pressing. Marciel highlights the urgent need to provide humanitarian assistance to over a million displaced individuals affected by the military's violence. Furthermore, the country's shattered economy and education systems necessitate a carefully crafted plan for revival and reconstruction. Another critical dimension is building governance capacity at the state and local levels. With limited experience in decentralized administration, Myanmar must invest in training and resources to establish robust governance structures.
The plight of the Rohingya population also remains a significant concern for the nation's democratic future. Marciel urges a comprehensive dialogue with the Arakan Army and Rohingya representatives to determine the future of Rakhine State and ensure the protection of all communities.
“The international community should recognize that there is no prospect for Myanmar to make progress as long as the junta is in power; the only hope is for the broad resistance to prevail,” writes Marciel. “The world can and should do more to help the resistance push the military out of power, or at least weaken it to the point that it sues for peace.”