Myanmar’s Military Ups Its Brutal Campaign Against Resistance Forces

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Myanmar’s military atrocities, Good Friday Agreement unrest in Northern Ireland, and a mass migrant rescue off Italy’s coast.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Myanmar’s military atrocities, Good Friday Agreement unrest in Northern Ireland, and a mass migrant rescue off Italy’s coast.

Myanmar’s Forgotten Crisis

Myanmar’s ruling military junta on Tuesday carried out a devastating airstrike on the village of Pazigyi, located in the country’s rebel-held northwest Sagaing region, killing at least 100 people, including around 30 children. Images from social media showed decimated buildings and roadways. The Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is known, acknowledged responsibility for the strike but said it had targeted “terrorists,” not civilians. The attack struck a large group of mostly civilians who had gathered to celebrate a local rebel group’s opening of an administrative office in the town.

The strike—the deadliest attack in two years—is part of a broader military campaign to stamp out an armed resistance movement that coalesced in response to the February 2021 military coup that ended the country’s decadelong experiment with quasi-democracy. More than 13,000 children have been killed since the military took power, and over 17,500 people have been arbitrarily detained. At least 17.6 million people need humanitarian assistance, and tens of thousands more have fled to neighboring nations.

Although the coup initially drew international media attention and condemnation from Western governments, attention has since waned, eclipsed by crises elsewhere, including in Ukraine—that is, until an atrocity like Tuesday’s occurs. This has produced largely reactive policy decisions by the international community that are often incremental and disjointed, Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, told Foreign Policy on Tuesday. And Myanmar’s military leaders have taken advantage of this.

“The junta are like mushrooms; they thrive in the dark,” Andrews said. “I think because of the lack of attention, there is a lack of political will.” In this way, he fears the lack of an effective international community response will only worsen the crisis. “As time goes on, these attacks will continue and the people of Myanmar will continue to feel the brunt of the horror of these attacks.”

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21st-Century Troubles. Britain and Ireland commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on Tuesday, with U.S. President Joe Biden visiting both Ireland and Northern Ireland this week. That peace deal, which former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s administration helped negotiate, largely ended the decades of bloody sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles.

But although that hard-won peace has broadly endured in the 25 years since, recent years have seen an uptick in violence, albeit on a much smaller scale. That has been driven in part by the political and economic convulsions of Brexit, which sparked fears of renewed border tensions between Ireland, which remains part of the European Union, and Northern Ireland, which left the EU along with the rest of the United Kingdom. Just a day before Biden was set to arrive, masked people in an Irish nationalist-majority area of Derry, Northern Ireland, attacked a police vehicle with gasoline bombs.

A Mediterranean maritime rescue. The Italian government issued a state of emergency late Tuesday over a surge in migration after around 1,200 migrants were rescued off the coast of Italy earlier in the day. This comes after the Italian coast guard saved some 2,000 individuals over the weekend as part of a larger maritime effort to address migration across the Mediterranean Sea.

The emergency measure is intended to help Italy’s far-right government more quickly expel migrants who cross illegally. The government has also tried to crack down on migrant rescue ships, which it accuses of encouraging people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing. Almost 2,000 people were reported either dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea in 2022. Italy’s national politics has been closely tied to North African immigration for years, with some politicians even becoming wrapped up in migrant exploitation scandals, David Broder reported for Foreign Policy.

Netanyahu reverses course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apparently has regrets. After two weeks of sticking by his decision to fire Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Netanyahu reversed course late Monday—offering Gallant the opportunity to return to his post. Gallant was removed from Netanyahu’s cabinet after publicly criticizing the prime minister’s now-suspended judicial reform plan, which sparked weeks of mass protests. Despite being dismissed, Gallant initially refused to leave, with the defense ministry saying he never received a formal letter removing him from office. Now, the prime minister has seemingly realized he needs his defense minister. “There were disagreements between us, even serious disagreements on some issues,” Netanyahu said in a televised speech, “but I decided to leave the disagreements behind us.”

Winnie-the-Pooh has become Taiwan’s enemy. As part of a campaign against Chinese nationalism, a Taiwanese designer created an embroidered badge that shows a Formosan black bear, indigenous to Taiwan, punching the classic cartoon teddy bear—whose supposed resemblance to Chinese President Xi Jinping has long been a popular meme on social media—while it holds a honey pot engraved with the five stars of the Chinese flag. Three days of Chinese military drills, meet Taiwanese cartoons.

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