Myanmar has had a long history of various coup d’état, including the 26 year long military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party. Due to the lack of a democratically elected government, countries like the United States had imposed sanctions time and again. The first democratically elected government was formed in 2015 under Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy. As Myanmar moved towards democracy, US and UK removed their sanctions and Myanmar was expected to move further ahead towards globalizing by establishing ties with other countries as well as various companies which had previously shunned Myanmar. However, this predictable journey could not carry forward post the elections which culminated in the formation of a government in February 2021. The military staged a coup, quashing all hopes of democracy.
The NLD won a swooping victory but the military regime, called the Tatmadaw stated that the elections were not fair and blamed the Election Commission for not being unbiased and efficient. It overtook the functioning of the country and detained all major political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, putting the country under military rule all over again. It has established that military rule would continue for a year, followed by elections carried out by the Election Commission that is formed by the Army. The Tatmadaw has met with resistance from within the country as well as criticism from all over the World.
Though Aung San Suu Kyi was put to blame for allegedly playing a role in the genocide of Rohingyas, leaders throughout the World have shown their support and respect towards a democratically elected leader. Under the rule of the Tatmadaw, Myanmar has suffered a great deal of poverty and civil unrest. There have been multiple civil wars with minority ethnic groups which have constantly been suppressed by the Army. The isolationist policies did not let the economic fabric of the country grow and hence, there was a persistent blow to progress.
Drawing Myanmar back to the pre-democracy years has attracted criticisms as well as threats for sanctions. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has urged the countries, specifically ASEAN nations, to come together to establish peace in Myanmar and bring to an end “violence and repression” wielded by the military. He urged that there is a need for the UN to cooperate with ASEAN to help the re-establishment of democracy in the country. ASEAN has signed an agreement with the Army chief focusing on five key points, which are ending violence, constructive dialogue between all parties, acceptance of aid, a special ASEAN envoy who would facilitate discussions and the envoy’s final visit to Myanmar. This arrangement has gathered strong criticism from the Myanmar public as the representation of the people was not a part of this consensus. ASEAN has not imposed any sanctions, although US, UK and EU have already done so on the generals who led the coup and as well as the army officials.
The crackdown on protestors by Myanmar’s military forces has been condemned by the United States and the people were hailed as “courageous” for rejecting the military rule. Joe Biden has called the violence “outrageous” and absolutely unnecessary for so many people to be killed. He has threatened to reimpose sanctions on the country in the absence of democracy. A joint statement of Defence Chiefs from 12 countries including US, Germany, UK and Japan was released which has shown condemnation towards the acts of the Myanmar military and urged the restoration of credibility with the people of Myanmar.
However, while the West has strongly opposed the military’s stance, China released a statement saying that “all parties” should resolve the issue legally and constitutionally, disregarding the fact that the proclamation of an emergency by the military is in itself unconstitutional. China has also blocked the United Nations Security Council resolution to pass a statement condemning the coup. Moreover, China has refused to address the overtake of the military as a ‘coup’. This is in lieu of the long practiced policy of “non interference” in internal matters followed by China. This raises a question of whether the countries can or cannot object to the human rights violations taking place in any part of the World.
Myanmar is of utmost significance to India as it is the only South East Asian country with which India shares a border, both land and water. India has cultural and historical links to Myanmar which goes back to centuries earlier. These have now culminated into economic ties, with India having interest in various projects including the Kaladan Multimodal Project and the Sittwe Port. For India’s economic gains to be unaffected, it wishes to have a peaceful political environment to persist in Myanmar. India does not want a weakened Myanmar at its doorsteps and has a lot of stake in the country as it lies on the confluence of two of India’s most important foreign policies: “Neighborhood First” and “Act East”. It is for these reasons that India has time and again supported the process of democratization in Myanmar.
However, several policy experts have defined India’s criticism of the military rule as lukewarm and half hearted. India is skeptical about being outrightly critical of the military because of security concerns in the Northeast region. India wishes to sustain the security relationship that it has secured with the Myanmar Army in the four States that Myanmar shares border with. India has undertaken counterinsurgency measures and border management in the Northeast along with the Myanmar Army. It is this alliance of security that is preventing India from being fully critical of the military rule. If India openly criticizes the military, it will have to speak in support of the democratically elected government which has remained silent on the atrocities committed on the Rohingyas. This might result in the Rohingya crisis taking a backseat and their infiltration would lead to disturbance in the Northeast.
It has been four months that the military coup started and yet there isn’t a unified global solution that has been reached to solve the Myanmar crisis. The people have been protesting for their right to be governed by a popular government and this struggle is being quashed violently by the military. It is for the World at large to uphold the rights of the Burmese, as the Vienna Convention holds that human rights are universal, indivisible and interrelated.
Photo Courtesy: Reuters
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