Ever since February, protests in Myanmar have erupted over a coup d’état by the military. The coup was led by Min Aung Hlaing, a Burmese army general who assumed the role as the Chairman of the State Administration Council after overthrowing former State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during the revolution. Many of the protests have been peaceful and non-violent. Such protesters have used acts of civil disobedience, labor strikes and military boycott campaigns, and adopted the three-fingered salute that was popularized by the film adaptations of the Hunger Games. However, responses to the protests have been more violent, as well as including cutting out internet and social media access, and arresting protesters participating in the events.More than 600 people have been killed by security forces since the Feb. 1 military coup. The latest killings in Bago saw more than 80 killed at the hands of the military.
Three days after the protests began on Feb. 4, the Federal Reserve withheld the transfer of $1 billion to the State of New York following an attempt to transfer those funds under the name of Myanmar’s Central Bank. Almost a week later, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to freeze the assets of military leaders that took part in the coup. He mentioned as the protests grow, this violence against Burmese citizens trying to express their democratic rights is considered unacceptable. The question in this article is what would happen if the U.S. took part in the protests.The relationship between the United States and Myanmar started to decline in the late 1980s following a similar coup that resulted in the violent suppression of pro-democracy protesters and got only worse in late 2007 following the same repression. Although relations began improving in 2011 and after Derek Mitchell was nominated the ambassador to Myanmar, a 2012 poll found that 30 percent of Burmese citizens approve U.S. leadership, with two-thirds of citizens being uncertain.
In response to the protests, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s ruling military junta. The sanctions include blacklisting Myanmar Gems Enterprise, a mining company, meaning American companies cannot do business with Myanmar Gems Enterprise and would therefore give the junta difficulties in generating revenue. Myanmar has also been a major source for jade, as well as rubies and other rare gemstones.When it comes to protests over pro-democracy rights and demanding democratic freedom in Asia, some of the consequences have been deadly. The most infamous example of this had to be the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and it still remains one of the most politically sensitive topics in mainland China, with the Communist Party of China trying to erase all images and memory of that horrific event. Protests like these are still a major issue in Hong Kong, which is indirectly governed by China. The latest series of protests there all began with a murder in Taiwan.Myanmar is bordered by China to its northeast and this coup highlights autocracy’s rise in Southeast Asia. All major American television news networks have covered some form of world protests, and the U.S. military should never have to do a repeat of what caused the Iraq War, which would involve overthrowing the Burmese government as a whole. Although the situation is a difficult one, the U.S. should never declare war over pro-democracy protests in another country, and if they did, the fate of the Burmese-American relations would be unpredictable.