After a slow start, demonstrations and strikes in protest of the Feb. 1 coup have been gathering momentum. Last week, a national strike shut down the country, which is also known as Burma. Hundreds of thousands have been taking to the streets daily. Supporters of the National League for Democracy, which had governed the country since 2016 and overwhelmingly won elections in November, have been joined by most of Myanmar’s ethnic minority parties, leaving the military isolated. The shootings do not appear to have deterred the protesters, who have begun digging in. The Post described one neighborhood in Yangon where roads have been barricaded and strewn with spikes and diesel slicks.
The regime has also encountered stiffer international resistance than it probably counted on. The United States has been vocal in condemning the coup and subsequent repression — Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced the “abhorrent violence” on Sunday — and has sanctioned several senior officials. Facebook has banned the military from its platforms, which are practically synonymous with the Internet in Myanmar. Even China has expressed unease: Its ambassador said the situation is “absolutely not what China wants to see.”
On Friday, the U.N. General Assembly witnessed an extraordinary act of courage by Myanmar’s ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, who gave a speech calling for the “strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people and to restore the democracy.” That ought to galvanize further action by the United States, European Union and other democracies.
More U.S. sanctions against individuals are said to be coming. But the Biden administration should embrace more robust steps to cut off the revenue funding the regime. It can do so, in part, by leveraging joint ventures that Myanmar companies have with Western multinationals to extract and export gas, minerals such as jade, and timber. If the U.S. Treasury Department sanctions the Myanmar companies, their Western partners and banks could be blocked from remitting funds to them. U.S. officials should look for ways to supply the resistance with cash and other aid. And U.S. diplomats should insist on observing the court proceedings underway against NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ousted president Win Myint, who were hit with more fabricated charges Monday.
Myanmar’s military suppressed opposition to its rule in 1988 and 2007 by gunning down protesters in the streets. But the country has changed considerably in the past decade as it has opened to the world. The United States and other nations have the means to bring crushing economic pressure to bear on the generals. They should not hesitate to use it.