Myanmar Millitary Coup

GS 2 International Relations Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Introduction

            The 2021 Myanmar coup d’état began on the morning of 1 February 2021 when democratically elected members of Myanmar’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy, were deposed by the Tatmadaw—Myanmar’s military—which vested power in a stratocracy.

Background:

History:

  • The political climate in the Junta-led Myanmar started changing around 2010.
    • In 2008, the military had written a new Constitution that made sure the Generals’ interests would be protected even if there is a transition.
  • Than Shwe, who had been ruling the country since 1992,
    • shook up the power structure,
    • promoted young soldiers who were loyal to him
    • conducted elections under the new Constitution.
  • The NLD, which had not recognised the Constitution, boycotted the 2010 election, which the USDP won.
    • In the next five years, the Army loosened its grip on the government and society.
    • Political prisoners, including Ms. Suu Kyi, were released.
    • Media censorship was eased.
  • US President Barack Obama visited Myanmar in 2012,
    • signalling a thaw in relations between Myanmar and the U.S.
    • Ms. Suu Kyi’s party also changed its earlier position and accepted the Army-written Constitution.
  • The NLD won the 2015 election, the country’s first free and fair election
    • participated by multiple parties,
    • formed the government,
    • raising hopes that the country is on its way to full transition to democracy.
  • But the 2008 Constitution has enough clauses to prevent such a change. According to the Constitution,
    • the President must have military experience
    • the President himself, his spouse or children “shall not be subject of a foreign power or citizen of a foreign country”.
    • Ms. Suu Kyi, whose two sons are British citizens, cannot become President.
    • The Constitution also mandates that the Defence and Interior Ministries would be controlled by the military.
    • 25% of the total seats in Parliament (166 out of the 664-member house) are reserved for the military,
      • giving it a veto over any move to change the Constitution.
  • So even when the Army allowed power to be transferred to an elected government, it made sure that it would continue to drive defence and internal security policies,
    • that the USDP, its political vehicle, has an edge over other parties in elections with the reserved seats in Parliament.
    • But the Generals wanted more.

Current Scenario

      Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the polls by winning almost 80% of the vote, while the Army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) suffered a humiliating defeat.

  • The military is now back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency.
  • It seized control following a general election which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
  • The armed forces had backed the opposition, who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread fraud.
  • They declared a state of emergency for a year, and took power in their hands.
    • The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.
    • The coup was staged as a new session of parliament was set to open.
  • Ms Suu Kyi is thought to be under house arrest.
    • Several charges have been filed against her,
    • including breaching import and export laws
    • possession of unlawful communication devices.
    • Many other NLD officials have also been detained.
  • Myanmar, which started a fragile transition to democracy 10 years ago after decades of brutal military dictatorship, is back in the hands of the Generals.

International Reaction

  • The UK, EU and Australia are among those to have condemned the military takeover.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it was a “serious blow to democratic reforms”.
  • US President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions.
  • China blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the coup.
  • Neighbours including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, have said it is an “internal matter”.

India expresses ‘deep concern’:

  • India’s official response came hours after the Myanmar military declared a state of emergency in the Southeast Asian country and detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
    • India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar.
    • The rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld.
    • India had shown commitment to build robust relationship with Myanmar over the past two decades which intensified after the democratic process began in 2011.
  • On January 22,2021 India sent 15 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine to assist Myanmar in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
  • On October 15, 2020, India announced the handing over of a kilo-class submarine INS Sindhuvir to the Myanmar navy.
    • First submarine for the Myanmar navy.
  • The NLD rule in Myanmar coincided with the military campaign against the Rohingya refugees of the Rakhine province
    • which led to the displacement of at least one million ethnic Rohingya citizens of Myanmar who have taken refuge in Bangladesh and other countries.

Way Forward

  • The Army says it has declared an emergency as the NLD government failed to act on its complaints on voter fraud.
  • It has promised elections, without offering any time frame.
    • But the NLD has called for protests against the coup.
  • But if China’s response is any indication, the Generals won’t face any heat from Beijing.
    • This means, they could circumvent pressure from the U.S., even economic sanctions, by moving closer to China, which is already making huge investments in Myanmar.

Conclusion

              Ms. Suu Kyi had tried to buy peace with the Generals in her first term, especially on the Rohingya issue.She defended the Army crackdown on the Rohingya, was executed with “genocidal intent”.
              But Suu Kyi’s popularity and an energised NLD that was in power for five years would be an impediment for them. And their own unpopularity, a burden.

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