March 26, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers calls for protest in Belarus, the arrest of Bolivian ex-President, and sanctions against Chinese officials.
On Thursday North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles an action which defies the UN Security Council’s ban on such tests by the country. The test happened one day after U.S. officials dismissed a test on Sunday as “normal military activity.” On Sunday, violent protests erupted in Britain over a proposed bill that would restrict protests and grant new powers to the police. Eritrea has agreed to withdraw its troops from Tigray after a military offensive drew criticism which marks a turning point in the conflict that has been raging in the region since November.
Covid-19 cases have risen for a fourth week in a row while the number of deaths has remained the same. A third wave of infections has begun in the EU despite vaccination progress. The EU has announced that it is potentially going to block vaccine exports to highly vaccinated countries and has said that AstraZeneca cannot export any more COVID-19 vaccines from Europe until the company fulfills their contract. India has also suspended exports of the AstraZeneca jab to meet domestic demand while cases surge. The head of the UN health agency said this week that the growing gap between the number of vaccines being given in rich countries and those administered through COVAX grows “more grotesque every day.” Meanwhile, concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine continue as Denmark and Norway extend their suspensions of its use while they continue to review the vaccine, despite the European Medicines Agency’s assessment that it is “safe and effective.”
The United States and the United Kingdom have ramped up international pressure on the regime in Myanmar by blacklisting more military-controlled businesses after nine more protesters were reportedly killed by the Burmese army. The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions targeting Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited. Both companies are part of a wide military-controlled network which spans a variety of sectors and has enriched the military. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced that the U.K. would also target Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited in order to help drain the military’s sources of revenue. The violence perpetrated by the ruling junta has helped to build solidarity among Myanmar’s different religious groups, which often play an outsized role in influencing the course of events in the country. New networks involving Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims are pooling resources and coordinating support for protests in different parts of the country. Inter-religious unity poses a grave threat to the military dictatorship because of the historically symbiotic relationship between Buddhism and the state; the support of the sangha, or community of Buddhist monks, provide moral legitimacy, spiritual power, and religious legitimacy to the state. In a potentially ominous development for the ruling government, Myanmar’s influential, state-appointed Buddhist monks’ association, the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, last week called on the military to halt its violence against protesters, potentially foreshadowing a break between the government and the Buddhist group. The independent U.N. special rapporteur investigating human rights violations in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, warned that the “pace and scope” of the international response to the military coup in Myanmar “is falling short of what is required to head off a deepening crisis.” Mr. Andrews added that the “limited sanctions” imposed so far by member states do not do enough to cut off the regime’s flow of revenue and that the most lucrative assets of the Burmese state have been left untouched.