A year on from Myanmar’s ‘annus horribilis'

Contact Counsellor

A year on from Myanmar’s ‘annus horribilis'

  • The coup in Myanmar will be a year old tomorrow.
  • On February 1 last year, the military seized power, violating the Constitution.
  • A decade-long experiment with hybrid democracy ended abruptly, paving the way for violence, oppression and instability.


  • About the Military Coup:
  • In the November 2020 parliamentary election, Suu Kyi’s party National League for Democracy (NLD) secured the majority of the seats.
  • In the Myanmars’ Parliament, the military holds 25% of the total seats according to the 2008 military-drafted constitution and several key ministerial positions are also reserved for military appointees.
  • When the newly elected Myanmar lawmakers were to hold the first session of Parliament in 2021, the military imposed a state of emergency for one year citing massive voting fraud in the parliamentary elections.

Internal scene - "annus horribilis"

  • The Opposition has called for a nationwide silent strike that ends in mass clapping, an act representing the indignation and the frustration of the people.
  • Masses - angry with the military that has oppressed them and imprisoned their elected leaders.
  • They are also frustrated with the international community as it failed to show up with a magic wand to restore democracy.
  • President Win Myint and Daw Suu Kyi were arrested and there was a brutal clampdown.
  • After the coup, the Opposition formed a parallel government named the National Unity Government (NUG).
  • Slowly it lost momentum as Naypyitaw denounced NUG as “terrorists”, and used its overwhelming power to subdue the resistance.
  • 1,498 people have been killed and 11,787 imprisoned till January 27, 2022.
  • A sizable number of security officials have been killed.
  • An exodus of people seeking refuge in neighbouring countries followed, which included over 15,000 people to Mizoram, India.
  • Instability has ruined the economy, with the World Bank terming it as “critically weak”.

ASEAN’s role

  • Attention has now been focused on mediation by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
  • It began well as the regime’s supremo, agreed to accept the ‘Five-Point Consensus’ comprising, inter alia, the cessation of violence, national dialogue and mediatory efforts by ASEAN.
  • The current ASEAN Chair has adopted a softer approach which is backed by Thailand and Laos.
  • It aims at adjusting to the military’s refusal to compromise on its key requirements such as denial of access to Daw Suu Kyi for ASEAN mediators, and little dilution of the 2008 Constitution.
  • A key person to watch this development is Noeleen Heyzer, the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres’s special envoy, who could help both the UN and ASEAN to craft a modus vivendi for Myanmar.

Other players

  • The US and EU have not accurately assessed the military’s resolve and core conviction that without its driving role, national unity and integrity would disappear.
  • The western policy to promote democracy and impose sanctions against the military have produced minimal results.
  • Russia endeavours to woo Myanmar by increasing its defence cooperation since the coup.
  • The principal player is China, not Russia, despite evident coordination between the two.
  • China enjoys enormous leverage in the ‘Golden Land’ through its control over several ethnic armed organisations, projects covered by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the regime’s protection via veto in the Security Council, and a thick cheque book.

India’s policy

  • India has done much to shape and to strengthen diplomatic efforts at the UN and through its support to ASEAN for putting Myanmar’s transition to democracy back on the rails.
  • India provided 1 million doses of “Made in India” vaccines, and humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar.
  • For India, the well-established two-track policy of supporting democracy and maintaining cordial relations with the Government remains in operation.