Military Quenching Newfound Democracy in Myanmar

The instability in Myanmar apparently never seems to subside even over the years building optimism over the fledgling democracy. The country known for its genocide against the Rohingya community in the name of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ is caught up in another turmoil as the nascent democracy of the country is threatened yet again by the military that barely started to withdraw from the political affairs in 2011. The intense pressure of the military, the budding fear of the local masses and the surging claims regarding irregularities in the November 2020 elections are leading a road towards another bout of military rule over a nation that has witnessed bloodletting of the innocent for a prolonged period of time.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a South Asian country at the edge of Bay of Bengal. The country is bordered by Bangladesh, china and Vietnam. The state gained independence from the British rule in 1948 yet the constitution was labelled by the military governments that followed the country till 1962 to be toppled by a complete military coup to last for almost half a century. Unlike the regional countries, Myanmar has waded the years with a complex relation between democracy and authoritarian supremacy. The 2010 elections, despite their revolutionary vibe of converging the country on the path of democracy and subsequently changing it from Burma to the state of Myanmar, were widely criticised both within the country and in global political circles for the fraudulent victory to the Burmese military-controlled party.

The 2015 elections turned the country on the path of real democracy acknowledged by the nations around the world. The National League of Democracy (NLD) leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, swept the 2015 elections with a landslide majority, enough to propel her to form government in the parliament. Suu Kyi stood as the beacon of human rights activism, stemming from her late father, General Aung San, who was a freedom fighter and was slain during his struggle for the independent Burma. Suu Kyi was one of the very few Burmese citizens to work for the United Nations and eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her valiant efforts against the authoritarian rule in Myanmar. Her outstanding activism came about from a 15-year house arrest that never weakened her to bow against the oppression imposed by Tatmadaw, the notorious Myanmar Military forces responsible for carrying out savage genocidal exercises against the minorities like Rohingya and political opponents.

However, since her ascension to power, State Counsellor Suu Kyi failed to uphold her position as the champion of the rights of the oppressed. She was perpetually critiqued for her lack of efforts to bring about reforms in the country, stop the rape and murder spree that gripped the nation for decades and at least defy the tyrannous army that despite of the prevailing democracy, still enjoyed a quarter of seats in the parliament and continued to interfere in the state affairs. Suu Kyi lost her reverence completely as a popular leader when instead of standing up for the desolate Rohingya community, she openly defended the actions of the Tatmadaw forces in the International Court of Justice in 2019, which took her supporters completely by surprise and dismay.

The recent debacle comes about in the growing speculations of a military coup to topple the government of And San Suu Kyi following the allegations from the Military-backed opposition of widespread fraud in the November 2020 elections. The opposition along with rights groups have widely criticised the newly elected government of disenfranchisement of voters like Rohingya community in the Rakhine region. Moreover, the Tatmadaw under the command of Military Chief Min Aung Hlaing has reported a fraud in roughly 8.6 million cases posting irregularities in the elections that earned Suu Kyi a landslide majority in the parliament. A recent raid by the military acted onto the speculations by detail the NLD leadership including State Counsellor Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. The countries around the world heeded the escalating tension between the civilian and military sides, issuing statements to guard the constitution at all cost to maintain democracy. However, with key leaders detained and the constitution still chartered under the influence of the military, the statement from the government spokesperson, Myo Nyunt, is worrisome enough to prepare the country for another bout of holocaust: “We do not say the Tatmadaw will take power. We do not say it will not as well”.

Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi
Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi
The author is a political and economic analyst. He focuses on geopolitical policymaking and international affairs. Syed has written extensively on fintech economy, foreign policy, and economic decision making of the Indo-Pacific and Asian region.