Myanmar’s continued suspension of democracy

Contact Counsellor

Myanmar’s continued suspension of democracy

  • Myanmar commemorated its Armed Forces Day featuring Russia as the guest of honour.
  • The leader of the country’s ruling military junta gave inflammatory comments aimed to quell dissidents and protesters.
  • The country has led intense crackdowns on those resisting junta rule.
  • The General invalidated the identity and agency of those protesting, and by deeming them terrorists, provided the authorities with a basis to engage violently.

What is happening on the ground?

  • The military continues to conduct operations in different regions of the country to quash dissident voices.
  • Myanmar continues its resistance with political opponents of the junta also joining militias.
  • These militias have collaborated with some long-standing ethnic armed groups which have operated in the borderlands of the country.
  • These States have rarely been centrally controlled. For the most part of their history, they have been ruled by local leaders.
  • These States can also serve as a buffer between Myanmar and its bordering nations and thus be a site of constant assaults.
  • Due to many historical events, China enjoys a complex relationship with the local factions and the military junta.

What is the Myanmar-Russia relationship?

  • Myanmar’s military junta seized power last year and then invited Russia, as a guest of honour for its Armed Forces Day celebrations.
  • Myanmar was one of the very few countries which came to Moscow’s defence after the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russia also continues to be a major defence exporter to Myanmar.
  • Apart from Russia, China is another major player which offers arms to Myanmar.
  • Pakistan, India, Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Republic of Korea also routinely export defence equipment and small to medium size arms and ammunitions.
  • Myanmar has a tumultuous relationship with China as Beijing is also involved in arming rebel factions and thus, Myanmar wishes to diversify its dependence.
  • The relationship between Russia and the junta seems to be of cooperation, one which now favours Moscow more than before as it faces sanctions from a host of countries.
  • Myanmar is looking to use their raw materials as currency which works out for them as well as Moscow.
  • The flip side to this story is that as the Russian offence continues in Ukraine, it would not have the capacity or the willingness to export its defence equipment to Myanmar.
  • Myanmar continues its support to Moscow in international fora by being sympathetic to Russia’s actions and referring to the Russian President as “a visionary leader

How has the junta acted?

  • The junta’s actions in Myanmar have been horrific.
  • The junta was and continues to be allegedly involved in mass killings, acts of sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests of protesters and other civil society members who refuse to toe the line.

What led to the coup?

  • Myanmar has been in a constant tussle between democracy and military rule.
  • Before the 2021 coup, it had previously witnessed two coups; in 1962 and in 1988.
  • Even during the brief periods of democracy, the junta continued to remain the strongest institution.
  • Myanmar has seen three Constitutions being drawn up and enacted, the latest of it being a result of the military junta.
  • They gave themselves 25% of the seats in the legislature and thus made it possible that amendments couldn’t pass without their support.
  • The junta gave concessions to the democratic elements and released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010 under strict conditions, one of which was that she could never be the President.

What the junta did not realise was how her popularity would surge.

  • The year 2015 saw the National League of Democracy (NLD), led by Suu Kyi, winning 77% of the seats in Parliament.
  • The reasons for the 2021 coup stem from the growing popularity of Suu Kyi and her party.
  • The junta would have wanted to squash this before democracy made any more inroads into the junta’s stronghold on the country.
  • When the NLD swept the 2020 election, the Army considered the rising popularity of the party and its leader a threat.
  • The Generals made three demands to Ms Suu Kyi: disband the Election Commission, announced a probe into alleged election fraud and postpone the meeting of Parliament.
  • Ms Suu Kyi said ‘no’ to all three. Then came the coup.

India’s stand

  • India’s relationship with Myanmar has been predicated on maintaining a balance in its neighbourhood in a bid to keep a check on China’s growing influence.
  • In doing so, it has set aside certain democratic ideals and allowed itself to not publicly speak against the events transpiring in Myanmar.
  • It abstained from voting on the UNGA’s resolution on Myanmar and has constantly refused to actively speak out against the junta.
  • Recently, India urged Myanmar to end violence and implement ASEAN’s five-point consensus.
  • It continues to offer military exports to Myanmar.

Global voice

  • Different multilateral forums and organisations are trying to get the junta to mend its ways but to little avail.
  • In his recent visit to Myanmar, ASEAN’s special envoy hinted that the junta leadership gave a positive response to the possibility of him being able to meet the democratic leadership.
  • Sri Lanka’s Foreign Secretary communicated the idea that they would be looking to engage with Myanmar.
  • Recently, the Biden administration, in a bid to put Myanmar under the limelight internationally, ruled that the military junta carried out genocide against the Rohingya minority.
  • It also, along with the U.K. and Canada, implemented sanctions against high-ranking members of the junta.
  • The UNSC condemned the actions of the junta falling short of terming the events of 2021 as a “coup”.