Biden's top Asia official says Myanmar situation getting worse

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei, Myanmar, in a handout photo released by Dawei Watch on June 8, 2021.
Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei, Myanmar, in a handout photo released by Dawei Watch on June 8, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Joe Biden's policy coordinator for the Indo-Pacific region said on Tuesday (June 8) the situation inside military-ruled Myanmar was deeply concerning and continuing to get worse and the United States was looking at all possible scenarios there.

"It's undeniable that the violence is spiralling," Kurt Campbell told an online event hosted by the Centre for a New American Security think-thank.

"We're seeing not only challenges from the ethnic insurgencies, but increasingly, much more organised and purposeful and determined opposition on democratic side that has refused to go down."

"It's hard not to be discouraged by what we've seen," he said, when asked if he saw the possibility of state collapse in Myanmar.

"I would say the situation inside the country is concerning. And the situation is continuing to get worse. I think we are looking at all scenarios."

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a Feb 1 military coup, with daily protests in towns and cities and fighting in borderlands between the military and ethnic minority militias, some of which have only existed for a few weeks.

The United Nations said on Tuesday an estimated 100,000 people in Myanmar's Kayah state had been displaced by fighting that included "indiscriminate attacks by security forces" in civilian areas.

Campbell noted that Myanmar's coup leader Min Aung Hlaing had admitted in an interview aired on military-owned television he had not anticipated the level of civil unrest.

Campbell said Washington, which has imposed sanctions on the coup leaders and their economic interests, had supported efforts of the Association of South-east Asian Nations and others to try to begin a process of moving Myanmar back to democracy and was urging countries isolate the generals diplomatically.