PRC, Russia undermine international Burma response, EU’s top diplomat says

PRC, Russia undermine international Burma response, EU’s top diplomat says


The European Union’s top diplomat said in mid-April 2021 that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia were hampering a united international response to Burma’s military coup and that the EU could offer more economic incentives if democracy returns to the country.

“It comes as no surprise that Russia and China are blocking the attempts of the U.N. Security Council, for example to impose an arms embargo,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a blog post.

“Geopolitical competition in Myanmar [Burma] will make it very difficult to find common ground,” said Borrell, who speaks on behalf of the 27 EU member states. “But we have a duty to try.”

Burmese security forces have killed more than 700 unarmed protesters, including 46 children, since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1, 2021, coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The total included 82 people in the town of Bago, near Yangon, on April 9, which the activist group called a “killing field.”

“The world watches in horror, as the army uses violence against its own people,” Borrell said.

The PRC and Russia have ties to Burma’s armed forces, as the first and second largest suppliers of weapons to the country, respectively.

The United Nations Security Council in early April called for the release of Suu Kyi and others detained by the military but stopped short of condemning the coup.

The EU is preparing new sanctions on individuals and companies owned by the Burmese military. The bloc in March agreed to a first set of sanctions on 11 individuals linked to the coup, including the military’s commander in chief.

While its economic leverage in the country is relatively small, Borrell said the EU could offer to increase its economic ties with Burma if democracy is restored. That could include more trade and investments in sustainable development, he said.

EU foreign direct investment in Burma totaled U.S. $700 million in 2019, compared with U.S. $19 billion from the PRC.

The military claims it staged the coup because the November 2020 election won by Suu Kyi’s party was rigged. The election commission has dismissed the assertion.

In Burma, protest groups called for the boycott of the Thingyan Water Festival in mid-April, one of the most important celebrations of the year, because of the killings. (Pictured: Protesters carrying pots of Thingyan Water Festival plants demonstrate against the Burmese military’s coup during a march in Yangon on April 13, 2021.)

In a Twitter post ahead of Thingyan, the U.S. Embassy in Yangon said “we mourn the senseless loss of life in Bago & around the country where regime forces have reportedly used weapons of war against civilians.

“The regime has the ability to resolve the crisis & needs to start by ending violence & attacks.”