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Security Commentaries #005
February 6th, 2021 - Approx. 9 min read  


Special Edition
The Rise and Fall of a Burmese Democratic Experiment - Several days after the military coup in Myanmar, the country’s democratic transition has effectively come to an abrupt halt.

No Kindness for His Country - A message from the heart of a Burmese student in Taiwan.

The Rise and Fall of a Burmese Democratic Experiment -  Richard Chen, Taiwan Center for Security Studies

Earlier this week on Monday morning, the Tatmadaw—official name of the Burmese Armed Forces—detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and arrested key figures of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Nearly a decade after the military ceded power to civilian leadership, the nation’s transition towards a democracy has once again run into a crippling roadblock.

 The military junta, headed by General Min Aung Hlaing, took control of the central government in Nay Pyi Taw following Monday’s takeover. In the following days, the generals enacted a year-long state of emergency, installing the interim acting-president along with forming a new administrative council. Recalling, if not outright having detained, those in the democratically elected civilian government. On Wednesday, the military further charged Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and ousted-President Win Myint with obscure charges. Thus, turning back the clock on Myanmar’s “more-or-less” democratic transition since 2010. 

 " I believe that this will probably be the end of the best decade of democratic reform in Burma. The country is heading towards a complete U-turn and will need a long time for it to get back to the way it was. This will ultimately be seen as a gateway to China, as with sanctions, Myanmar will have no choice but to shift away from the US, towards Russia and China, those 2 countries which did nothing to condemn the military coup. " 
Dr. Antonina Łuszczykiewicz

Democracy in Myanmar has, since its inception a decade ago, been through its fair share of obstacles and treading a delicate path of balancing various political factions. Despite having won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Ms. Suu Kyi has been largely criticized in the past (mainly by the international community) for repeatedly silencing opposition to her ruling party and at times the ethnic minorities in the country. However, in light of these many setbacks, the local population still largely view Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD Party as a saving grace. As Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government was arguably the most realistic option for moving the nation away and moving on from previous decades of military-backed strongmen dictatorships. 

The international community has since expressed their opinions on the matter, which unsurprisingly varied across the board. The United States finally categorized the power-grab as a coup, whereas China’s position is that this is a “cabinet reshuffle” by the Tatmadaw. Neighboring nations largely agreed that this was an “internal matter” of Myanmar and declined to go much beyond such vocabulary. ASEAN,  an organization that Myanmar itself is a part of, only issued a statement calling for “dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy”. With the members of ASEAN having varied responses themselves, it seems that any sort of unified position or action from their end is highly unlikely to materialize any time soon. Unfortunately, how ASEAN as a collective body responds, projects substantial implications for the future of political stability in the region. The economic bloc would do well to engage itself more in the matter at hand rather than play a passive role and remain conciliatory . The UN Security Council itself took no immediate action, as China and Russia rejected labeling the military takeover as a coup d’état, noting that interference would only make the internal situation on the ground worse.

The Days that Followed

In the days that followed the thus-far bloodless coup, populations in major cities across Myanmar organized a Civil Disobedience Movement, as well as participated in peaceful protests while clanging pots and pans as a means of warding off evil. On Thursday, original Parliamentary members as well as numerous pockets of civil servants held demonstrations and protests to protest the actions of the military.

 As one of Asia’s youngest democracies slide precariously close to disintegration and back into military-rule, the grim atmosphere in the nation consists of anger and disbelief. The coup is the genesis of a return to authoritarianism in Myanmar. Now the nation’s vast array of preexisting internal divisions—whether ethnic or political—would only accentuate the increasingly dire predicament in the coming days and months. With the military in power, Myanmar’s coming days seem likely to entail the rollback of humanitarian aid from many of its international partners, as well as potentially the reintroduction of sanction regimes. Ties with the PRC will in turn, likely move towards a more closely-knit relationship if Myanmar were to be isolated by the “West”.

 Once more, the collective psyche of the Burmese democracy is jolted back in time, with Aung San Suu Kyi once again under house-arrest and military generals commandeering all branches of government, it is tough to say whether the people of Myanmar can peacefully repeal this incursion of democracy. As Human Rights Watch recently put it: “This is an extremely crushing blow to efforts to present Myanmar as a democracy, [and] its credibility on the world stage has taken a massive hit”.

 "The military in Myanmar is following in Trump’s footsteps of undermining the results of elections. Furthermore, the situation in Myanmar harkens back to when the Thai military instigated a coup in 2014. The military junta in Thailand consequently turned to the PRC, strengthening the military apparatus between the two countries as a result"
 - Director Fu-Kuo Liu 

No Kindness for His Country 

A message from the heart of a Burmese student in Taiwan.
- Naing Tun, Taiwan Center for Security Studies 

The man who has empty kindness for his country, General Min Aung Hlaing, made the wrong political move on Monday. The State Counsellor of Myanmar who won a landslide victory in the recent election in 2020 was detained, even before the new session of Parliament could start. Urging “fraudulent election results”, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing‘s false claims and his ridiculous reasoning will no doubt lead to political suicide. The results of  November’s election were considered valid, despite voter irregularities in some parts of the countries and were nonetheless accepted as part of the democratic process. 

Although there are some situations in which the military needs to take authority of the country in this case, the basis for this coup is unfounded.  Under circumstances in which the country is not under a state of emergency or when the president gives legal authority to the General, based on the 2008 constitution. In this case, the basis for a coup is unfounded. This is a clear-cut case of the people of Myanmar being and succumbing to indescribable amounts to insurrection. Instead of protecting the people, the military have done the exact opposite, and have aimed their sights towards the people. In a time where the pandemic is still ravaging the nation, vaccines and disease prevention should be at the forefront of Myanmar, not this atrocity. Myanmar needs to focus on post pandemic recovery with the help of friendly countries like loans, investment and support for vaccines.

 Nevertheless, I would like to say thank you to Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. You killed our hope, our hopes for a vaccines program, our belief in a democratic Myanmar, and halted precious FDI to fund a leading Myanmar. And for that, I thank you General, enjoy your power before the day’s end. Greed will only get you far, and the people of Myanmar will overcome.

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Copyright 2021 - Taiwan Center for Security Studies 

All views and articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either TCSS or the editors.

Editors : Richard Chen & Jaime Ocon
Image Sources: Getty Images, Reuters
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