Bangladesh, 7 other countries criticised for joining events

Though diplomats of all the countries stationed in Myanmar were invited to attend the Armed Forces Day parade, only eight countries - Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand - sent their representatives

Military personnel participate in a parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on 27 March 2021

A controversy has been created as the defence attaché of Bangladesh embassy in Myanmar joined a parade on Myanmar Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on a day that saw the highest number of deaths of anti-junta protesters. The incident not only aggrieved and disappointed Myanmar’s democracy seekers, rights activists and democracy-loving people from other countries also expressed their astonishment. Eight countries, including Bangladesh that took part in the parade programmes, have come under a barrage of criticisms on social media.

It was the 76th anniversary of Myanmar Army’s resistance to occupying Japanese Army during the World War II on 27 March. The military government of the country issued directives against any protests or demonstrations against the army, but the day saw huge protests across Myanmar. Armed forces and Myanmar police opened fire indiscriminately, killing 114 civilians.

Though diplomats of all the countries stationed in Myanmar were invited to attend the Armed Forces Day parade, only eight countries - Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand - sent their representatives. Other diplomats did not take part in the parade. BBC, Al Jazeera and other top media houses of the world published the names of the countries mentioning their munificence towards the Myanmar junta.

Earlier last week, Bangladesh voted against the proposal to give the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights the mandate to collect and record evidence and determine possible strategies for future trial of the grave human rights violations in Sri Lanka against civilians in suppressing the Tamil rebellion. Besides Bangladesh, 10 other countries including Pakistan, China and Russia voted in favour of Sri Lanka at the 47-member forum. However, the proposal was passed in the voting at the UN Human Rights Council.

Just within a week, Bangladesh’s foreign policy once again caught some flak because of the participation in the Armed Forces Day parade instead of expressing solidarity in the international arena in favour of human rights and democracy.

Though Myanmar civilians are the first victims of the violence inflicted by the country’s armed forces, Bangladesh suffers the second most . Bangladesh has given shelter to around one million Rohingya people on humanitarian grounds since August 2017. In this context, expressing sympathy or courtesy to Myanmar Armed Forces is quite unwarranted.

In a statement, the spokesperson of Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a body representing the MPs of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, said “It is impossible for us to express the pain that we feel when we saw those foreign diplomats joining hands with the celebrations of military generals when innocent people are being killed.”

He also said that the decision by the countries that attend the parade was “disgraceful” for their people, government and international community.

Former UN Assistant Secretary-General Kul Chandra Gautam tweeted, “Myanmar military has gone berserk massacring peaceful protesters demanding restoration of democracy. Shame on diplomats of Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos & Thailand attending Armed Forces Day giving legitimacy to junta’s coup.”

CVM, an alliance of Myanmar’s protesters, fighting for restoration of democracy, also criticised the incident. Justice For Women founder Wai Wai Nu tweeted the news of the eight countries and wrote, "These countries are accompliced to the killings today. They must be ashamed". Many Rohingya have expressed the same despair in their tweets.

No statement of the Bangladesh government could be found regarding its representative joining in the Myanmar Armed Forces day parade even after the concerned office in Dhaka was contacted.

* Kamal Ahmed is a senior journalist. This article, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for English edition by Shameem Reza