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Asia’s “worst regime since the Khmer Rouge”

General Min Aung Hlaing. Thet Aung/AFP/Getty

“As a general rule,” says Simon Tisdall in The Observer, “the more medals a dictator wears, the more absurd and dangerous they are.” It’s certainly true of Myanmar’s “junta boss”, General Min Aung Hlaing, strutting about in a uniform “adorned with meaningless decorations and gaudy gold braid”. Since his military coup in 2021, 2,600 Burmese people have been murdered and 17,000 detained. Children are imprisoned, tortured and sexually abused. The general recently “celebrated” Myanmar’s 75th independence anniversary – days after slapping another prison term on Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader he deposed – thanking countries who have refused to follow the EU, US and UK in imposing sanctions. “He might have mentioned Russia, too, his main arms supplier.”

Thankfully, “the junta’s grip on power is weakening”. Much of Myanmar is in a “state of semi-permanent insurrection”. But the man who can really “dethrone the region’s worst regime since the Khmer Rouge” is Xi Jinping. China’s huge investment in Myanmar gives it “unmatched leverage”. And while Xi “cares nought for democracy”, having “chronic instability” on China’s border is not in his interest. Perhaps that’s why Beijing unexpectedly declined to veto the first-ever UN security council resolution on Myanmar, which last month ordered the freeing of all political prisoners. The West must do more to encourage Xi to get onside and help cultivate a “united front” against Min Aung Hlaing’s gross human rights violations. If our global struggle for democracy is to have any hope of succeeding, it must be fought here, too.