Myanmar Military Very Strong
Gealena — Myanmar Military Very Strong. The dawn of February 1, 2021. Myanmar security forces arrested a number of elected political leaders, chief ministers, and activists in the nation’s capital, Naypyidaw, and across the country.
Among those arrested were State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in the November 2020 elections. The military also targeted members of the 88th Generation, a pro-democracy movement that suffered years of persecution after student protests in 1988 that were ruthlessly crushed by the military junta.
Then on Monday, military-run Myawaddy TV took over a number of the country’s political institutions, and First Vice President U Myint Swe, currently serving as interim president, transferred full executive, legislative and judicial authority to the Supreme Commander of the Military, Min Aung Hlaing. for a year. The military tried to justify the coup by alleging widespread voter fraud in last November’s elections and claims it has a constitutional mandate to take power in times of emergency.
A separate statement on the military’s Facebook page said the Tatmadaw (military in Burmese), would hold free and fair elections by the end of the year, and they would include multi parties.
The coup marked the end of Myanmar’s short-lived democracy that began in 2011, when the Tatmadaw, who had been in power in 1962, implemented parliamentary elections and other reforms.
World leaders and international institutions condemned the coup and called on the Myanmar military to immediately release political prisoners and respect the election results.
The military, which views itself as the guardian of national unity, is not expected to listen to these calls any time soon. Myanmar’s military has received frequent international criticism, including its cruel actions against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
So what is behind the Tatmadaw’s enduring control over Myanmar’s political system? The following is the analysis, as quoted from Aljazeera, Monday (8/2).
A country ‘born as a military occupation’
Myanmar Military Very Strong. The military has been the most powerful institution in Myanmar since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948.
General Aung San, the architect of Myanmar’s independence, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s father founded the Burma National Army with Japanese assistance in the early 1940s. General Aung San was assassinated in 1947, but his legacy lives on in the military, and the Tatmadaw has continued to enjoy strong community support in the years to come because the institution was judged to have liberated the country from colonial rule.
From the start, the military enjoyed uncontrolled control over the country’s political scene. As noted by the famous Myanmar writer and historian, Thant Myint-U in his latest book, The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century, “The modern state of Burma (the old name of Myanmar) was born as a military occupation. ”
Mastering the country’s mining, oil, and gas industries
Myanmar Military Very Strong, because it controls most of the natural products. After a brief period of semi-democracy, a military-led by General Ne Win took control of Burma in a coup in 1962. After the coup, the military outright banned all opposition parties and nationalized the country’s main industries and companies. This includes introducing the infamous “Burma Way to Socialism” – an ideology that resulted in unprecedented economic devastation and nearly completely isolated Myanmar from the international community.
In 1988, the Burmese people, led by student activists, staged nationwide rallies to address the military junta’s economic mismanagement and demand democratic reforms. The protests were met with a brutal military crackdown that left 5,000 people dead.
The military succeeded in stopping the protests, but failed to silence the growing call for democracy and lost almost all public support. That same year, Aung San Suu Kyi founded the NLD and began pressuring the military government to hold elections.
Due to domestic and international pressure, the military held elections and the NLD won hands down. The junta refused to recognize the election results and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest.
The Tatmadaw promised to hold new elections and hand over power to the civilian government after drafting a new constitution but failed to implement them for 18 years.
After ruling the country with an iron fist for nearly two decades, the Tatmadaw unilaterally drafted a new constitution in 2008.
The Tatmadaw then held a controversial constitutional referendum without the participation of any opposition groups, and just two days after Typhoon Nargis hit Myanmar. Although the NLD called the referendum “fraudulent” and the international community questioned its legitimacy, the Tatmadaw announced the draft was received with overwhelming public support and swiftly implemented it.
The new constitution maintains military control over the government by providing 25 percent of all seats in the national and local parliaments to serve military officials. This arrangement also gave the Tatmadaw the de facto power to veto any constitutional reform proposed by civilian legislators.
Under the new constitution, which is still in effect today, the military also increased its control over the country’s mining, oil and gas industries. This arrangement gave the Tatmadaw full financial independence and enabled it to easily resist years of international and domestic calls for reform. A report by Amnesty International 2020 revealed Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) had grossed USD 18 billion between 1990 and 2010 through military-controlled companies, which reinvested most of its revenues back into the military budget.
Count on China
The military’s continued repression of ethnic minority groups for fighting for basic rights of citizenship and the tendency to jail activists, journalists, or politicians who oppose its authority have caused it to lose significant public support over the years.
However, the Tatmadaw still enjoys some traction in Myanmar as a “defender of national sovereignty” against external and domestic threats.
Recently, claims Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an armed group fighting for Rohingya rights, launched a “terrorist” attack with the help of foreign fighters in western Rakhine State, increasing popular support for the military.
The consequence of the Tatmadaw “clean-up operations” targeting Rohingya civilians in 2016-2017 was supported by a large part of Myanmar society, although the attacks were defined as “massacres” and even as “genocide” by the international community.
The Myanmar Military Very Strong factor is the support of the ethnic majority. Military defenders in Myanmar are mostly from the ethnic Bamar majority, who view themselves as the rightful heirs of Burma’s past kingdom. The army also “bought” popular support by making large donations to the Buddhist Sangha, or community, and funding the construction of a monastery school.
Rely on China in the international arena
One of the factors of the Myanmar Military Very Strong is China’s influence. As the military seeks to maintain its legitimacy in Myanmar’s deterioration, it has also come under international criticism for crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups.
Given Myanmar’s declining status in the international arena following the Rakhine State crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi has increasingly relied on Beijing for diplomatic support at the United Nations. His government also relies on Chinese investment to complete major infrastructure projects in the country.
But the Tatmadaw has long been suspicious of China’s intentions in Myanmar, mainly because of its influence on ethnic armed groups in the country’s north as well as the geostrategic implications of the Chinese port project for Myanmar’s sovereignty. It is therefore unclear whether they will move closer to Beijing after Monday’s coup.
But after ending Myanmar’s brief experience with democracy, the military will undoubtedly need international support to maintain power and there are signs that China may be willing to take on the role of Tatmadaw protector.
Possibility of postponing elections
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar just weeks before the coup and held a meeting with Senior General Min Hlaing. This has led many to wonder whether Beijing had been pre-informed of a military coup plot.
In a statement following the meeting, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “China will continue to support Myanmar in safeguarding its sovereignty, national honor, and legitimate rights and interests.” This can be read as a vague agreement for the military to stage a coup.
While we may never know whether or not China was aware of the military intrigue that led to Monday’s coup, Beijing has signaled it will not condemn the Tatmadaw’s actions, calling the coup a “major cabinet reshuffle” and calling Myanmar “neighborly friendship”. The generals in Naypyidaw likely assume Beijing will continue to support Myanmar regardless of who is in power and that they can count on China’s future economic and diplomatic support.
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Meanwhile, the Biden Administration in Washington refused to call Monday’s events in Myanmar a “coup” in its official statement, possibly because of its fear of losing influence with Naypyidaw, which it wants to develop in its own geopolitical rivalry with Beijing. This has led many to believe that the US and the rest of the international community may once again fail to hold the Tatmadaw accountable for its undemocratic actions.
The White House, however, threatened to take action against the coup, considering new sanctions. The Biden administration is likely to consider expanding US sanctions against top military brass, their immediate family, and military-owned business entities such as MEHL. However, the threat of sanctions could be aimed at gaining influence in any negotiations with Myanmar’s military leaders.
Will Myanmar return to democracy?
For now, all signs suggest the Tatmadaw is unlikely to restore democracy to Myanmar any time soon. The military has promised to hold new elections within a year and has said it will respect the results of those elections and hand over power to the winner. But this one-year timetable appears arbitrary and leaves open the possibility that the military will postpone elections and hold on to power for a longer term.
With continued support from China and little pressure from the US and other prominent members of the international community, the Tatmadaw has little reason to step back and hand over power to a civilian government that will no doubt work to limit its rule.