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The Hope of R2P
Episode 10526th May 2022 • Insight Myanmar • Insight Myanmar Podcast
00:00:00 01:41:01

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The days turned dark in March 2020 when the Burmese military began attacking and killing nonviolent protesters. Soon after the crackdown, activists still courageous enough to take to the streets began holding signs that read: “We Need R2P.” 

R2P, or the Responsibility to Protect, is an international norm that the UN unanimously adopted in 2005, which purports to protect populations around the world from atrocity crimes, such as ethnic cleansing. However, R2P is not a legal doctrine, and so it can only be enforced when there is the political will to do so, and Scott feels it is most certainly needed now in Myanmar. But the international community has yet to act.

This inaction has caused frustration among Burmese activists who have been calling for R2P for over a year now. Our guest today, Liam Scott, believes that criticism should not be directed at the R2P doctrine itself, but rather at those international bodies who refuse to respond.

Scott thinks that the NUG has certainly “been specific in what particular tools of R2P they want the international community to employ, like with arms embargoes, with sanctions on oil and gas, and with depriving the military of the legitimacy that it craves on the international stage.” He also suggests taking a more nuanced view of R2P is more realistic as well as optimistic, where “boots on the ground intervention” is the only sign of effectiveness. He hopes that there can be a string of smaller successes that gradually develop into something larger. 

Still, Scott confesses he simply doesn’t know what more beyond the horrible things the Tatmadaw are already doing that would push international organizations to action. And he certainly wishes something would be done. Scott points to the fact that the Burmese military has never been successfully prosecuted for any past crimes, and suggests this is one reason why they are acting now with such impunity. He admits that the wheels of justice move slowly… though perhaps far too slowly for those victims still being persecuted. 

“I completely recognize and empathize with the fact that so many of these questions are coming from a place of pure desperation and frustration with an international community that has done so little in response,” Scott concludes.