The February 1 coup d'état in Myanmar which overthrew the democratic government of president Win Myint, who was detained along with other senior National League for Democracy figures including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and an Australian advisor Professor Sean Turnell, presented the Australian government with a difficult diplomatic conundrum.
DFAT's decision to adopt a relatively understated approach has, up until now, been defensible given we are still trying to negotiate the release of one of our own and that there was hope more might be gained by talking softly than immediately taking a big stick to the junta.
That is no longer the case. Appalling footage of Myanmar security forces deliberately running down demonstrators in an anti-coup protest in Yangon on the weekend proved Australia's calls for the new regime to step back from its brutal repression of dissent are falling on deaf ears.
The incident came just days after Human Rights Watch said the killing of at least 65 protesters in Yangon on March 14 had been a premeditated attack by security forces controlled by the junta. After a crowd of protesters had been encircled "soldiers and police armed with military assault rifles fired on trapped protesters and on those trying to assist the wounded".
It has been reported that since the beginning of the coup at least 1300 protesters and bystanders have been killed, thousands more injured and an unknown number detained.
Any hope democracy might be restored at the end of the 12 month state of emergency declared by the then acting president Myint Swe after the coup was dashed on Monday when both president Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi were found guilty on trumped up charges and sentenced to detention for four and two years respectively.
The commander in chief of defence services Min Aung Hlaing, to whom power was transferred by Myint Swe after the state of emergency was declared, will now have his hands on the levers of power for the foreseeable future.
If the NLD government, which had been re-elected with an increased majority in November 2020, had stayed in office Ming Aung Hlaing would have had to step down from the military in July when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65.
This could have exposed him to prosecution in international courts for alleged war crimes committed against the Rohinga. He would have also have had no say in the appointment of his successor.
The situation is absolutely dire. A community which has been striving for democracy and stability since the end of World War II, when the Burmans under Aung San Suu Kyi's father Aung San and the "30 heroes" helped the Allies drive the Japanese out of their country, is in urgent need of our assistance.
In one of history's lesser known ironies they had previously helped the Japanese against the British but then discovered independence under Tokyo was even worse than exploitation by the colonisers.
Although the Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said several times that Australia is continually reviewing its sanctions regime against Myanmar no action has been taken. That was despite a strong call in June from many MPs, including David Sharma, for them to be beefed up.
The last time the sanctions, which include an arms embargo, and travel, trade and banking restrictions on "designated persons", were tweaked was in October 2018.
Theodore Roosevelt once famously advised his countrymen America should "talk softly but carry a big stick". Australia has tried talking softly to no avail. The time has come to use the stick.
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