Coup in Myanmar: Nothing has changed
Last week a military coup happened in Myanmar. The military junta arrested all government leaders after months of dispute with the government over approval or disapproval of the November 2020 elections.
It said in a statement that the government leadership had been in the hands of the military commander, General Min Aung Hlaing, for a year. But what really happened in Myanmar?
Southeast Asian countries, which have all been colonies of European countries, have often tasted military rule. Military rule in the region ended after they transitioned from underdeveloped countries to civilian systems and achieved economic progress through revolution, demonstrations, or ballot boxes. And democracy became dominant in most of them.
But countries that did not achieve economic progress remained in the hands of military men. Of course, military men still rule in countries like Thailand and Vietnam even despite economic development.
Myanmar, now considered one of the least developed countries in Southeast Asia, is no exception. After independence from Britain, civilians ruled the country until 1962, but with a military coup, the military men came to power and ruled until 2011.
Myanmar’s economic, cultural, and educational poverty, along with the horrific ethnic divisions that have led to the killing of tens of thousands of people in recent decades, have paved the way for military rule; but after widespread military crackdowns on opposition parties and voices, a tense atmosphere was created in the country against the military. Thus, in 2011, under external pressure as well as unprecedented protests by domestic opposition leaders, the military allowed elections to be held with the participation of opposition party leaders.
The election resulted in the decisive victory of Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of daughter of General Aung San, the leader of Myanmar’s independence. She had previously lived in Britain.
The Aung San Suu Kyi leadership did not change anything
Although Suu Kyi won the election with the slogan of democracy, free society and economic progress and was able to take over the leadership of the government, in fact she has not been able to make fundamental changes in Myanmar over since.
Suu Kyi’s victory in 2011 and the formation of a civilian government in 2012 prompted Western nations to defend Myanmar in full force. Shortly afterwards, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and Suu Kyi’s actions were considered measures towards freedom and democracy, but the reality was something else!
The hero daughter of Myanmar could not exclude the army from power politics. She merely took over the political leadership of the government and did not take any action to solve the country’s main problems during these years. Terrible ethnic divisions, lack of economic development in the north and south, the forced involvement of the army in parliament (a 25-percent share in parliament) and important state positions (and the national identity crisis and nation-state divide were major problems that remained unresolved during a decade of Suu Kyi’s leadership. Suu Kyi has not even been able to bring the northern states in the country, which are controlled by armed smugglers and run semi-autonomously, into a single Myanmar.
The fact is that Suu Kyi did not deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her performance shows that this award was just a pretext by Western countries to make her a chaffy hero. Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize while Myanmar’s butcher (General Min Aung Hlaing) continued to play a key role in commanding the military. On the other hand, Suu Kyi’s silence on the unprecedented genocide of Muslims in Rakhine State is a big black stain on her forehead who claimed to defend peace.
Suu Kyi did not even mention the name of the Rohingya people in the International Court of Justice, who were butchered in the most horrific way possible by the country’s military, and eventually, her government took no action to resolve the crisis. It could be argued that this unprecedented genocide was a continuation of the same killings by the Myanmar army in the years before the Suu Kyi government.
In fact, a decade of Suu Kyi’s rule in Myanmar achieved nothing but superficial freedoms, creating a critical atmosphere against the army, and portraying a so-called form of democratic government based on the will of the people.
Support for Suu Kyi and the Western scandal
Since the coming into power of the civilian government in 2012, Westerners have created a media machination to support it so much so that by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Suu Kyi, she was declared the hero of Myanmar and international circles described her as a peace-loving figure.
After nearly 10 years of civilian rule under her leadership, Myanmar’s various problems, which could not be resolved by Western publicity, were revived. First, armed groups in the northern states, now revived by military involvement in the ruling system, boosted drug and human trafficking. The military then resorted to genocide in Rakhine State under the pretext of a fictional story. On the other hand, lack of significant progress in the economy and a persistent gap between the rich and the poor caused the class conflict to remain the same as before. In fact, the election based on which the Westerners awarded the Nobel Prize to its winner only changed the appearance of the government. The situation somehow remained the same in the country.
Perhaps the crisis of the Rohingya Muslim genocide could be seen as a turning point in the Western scandal in support of Myanmar’s civilian government. While most human rights organizations broadcast the Rohingya genocide crisis in Myanmar with various documents, Suu Kyi safely traveled to countries that portray themselves as defender of human rights and continued her policy of silence about the crisis.
The brutal massacre of the people of Rakhine State was so evident that the Nobel laureates voiced protest and several people demanded that the prize be taken back from Suu Kyi, but again countries supporting her remained silent and said her party’s victory deserved the Nobel Peace Prize and her politics were viewed in line with the implementation of democracy in Myanmar.
What will happen next after the coup in Myanmar?
With only a few months to go until the end of his military term, General Min Aung declared martial law and then all government leaders, including Suu Kyi, were arrested under the pretext of election fraud in November in which military parties lost. The military is back in power after 10 years, and this time it is going to try the heads of state, just like it did in 1962.
The coup was met with international backlash. Myanmar’s neighbors, such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, all of whom their democratic governments have been ousted in coups, have not reacted strongly. However, other Southeast Asian countries have called on the parties to show restraint and talked about differences.
Westerners, who had turned a blind eye to various crimes in the Suu Kyi-led Myanmar, have now condemned the coup. The United States, which has not yet announced its new global policy, is facing a crisis of intervention or non-intervention in Myanmar’s case. Analysts see the Biden administration’s response to the coup as a reflection of U.S. policy towards Southeast Asia. They argue the United States, like before, either intervenes in countries or just issues political statements.
The two biggest countries in the region, China and India, have so far called for calm in Myanmar. Security and stability in Southeast Asia seem to be more important to regional powers than anything else. Although the United States has accused China of supporting the coup, China has so far provided valuable assistance to stability in Myanmar. Creating a mechanism for a dialogue between the warring parties in the northern states of Myanmar, investing in Myanmar under the “One Belt, One Road” plan, and raising its trade balance with the country among other measures.
Although the coup has overthrown the civilian government in Myanmar, the core policies in the country will not change. If the military can keep the country united and calm by avoiding successive genocides, it looks like the fate of Myanmar will be the same as that of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand; that is, with the institutionalization of military governments, these countries will continue on their way.