IPRI – Islamabad Policy Research Institute

Political unrest in Myanmar

THE political discord between the military and protestors in Myanmar have become violent. Security forces are using tear gas and stun grenades to deter the protestors.

Nearly, 50 people have lost their life in protests over a period of one-month.

As per the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Advocacy Group about 1,700 people are kept in detention. A young lady aged 19 years was shot dead in Mandalay.

During her funeral, slogans of anti-coup were raised. Protestors’ posters read “We stand with the people” and “We don’t want the dictatorship”. Myanmar is an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member state and as per the ASEAN Charter on Human Rights, peaceful demonstrations are allowed.

The protestors’ demand is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders kept under detention by the military junta.

Within the security forces, there is support for democratic rule. In one instance, the police force joined the protestors in Kayah state (eastern Myanmar).

In another instance, Karen National Police Force (KNPF)from the ethnic organization of Karen National Union (KNU) took to streets along with protestors in Myitta town, Tanintharyi region, south-eastern Myanmar.

Myanmar under the democratic rule has opened up to economic cooperation with ASEAN and China.

Myanmar has established economic relations with China and the China-Myanmar-Economic Corridor (CMEC) is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The economic linkages have led to technical exchanges and development.

The reaction by the people of Myanmar over military’s takeover shows that the people have learnt to grow/progress under the democratic leadership, and want freedom and regional connectivity.

The military government in Myanmar has cancelled licenses of media outlets – Mizzima, DVB, Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now and 7Day News, which limits the country’s communication with outside.

The situation in Myanmar has led to criticism from world quarters, in particular the Western democracies.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinkenm has called for the release of government officials, and civil society leaders. The Biden administration has imposed limited sanctions on the military government.

The regional countries, including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore have called upon the military junta in Myanmar to release the civilian leadership. Australia has also suspended a five-year defence training programme with Myanmar.

The military’s take over comes in the aftermath of country’s election, held last November.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party — the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 396 out of 476 seats in both houses of parliament.

Whilst, the political party, which had rejected the election result, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) managed to get only 26 seats.

NLD has been vocal for democracy in Myanmar; the party had maintained majority support in 2015 and 2020 elections’. NLD had also proposed to alter the military’s 25 percent seats’ in parliament

. The proposal could not be implemented as it failed to gain majority vote in parliament. About the legality of military’s takeover, the voter fraud is being cited as a reason.

The public’s unrest and the coercive measures employed to deter the people is a concern for country’s internal stability.

The regional countries have urged Myanmar to return to normalcy with a release of political leaders.

Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin has visited Thailand and Indonesia. The first diplomatic encounter since the military took over.

However, to ensure that the peace returns in Myanmar, the people are secure and the country is able to grow economically, the regional countries, in particular the ASEAN states will have to take the lead.

A constructive mediatory role from the ASEAN side can be helpful in easing the crisis.

Note: This article appeared in Pakistan Observer, dated 29 March 2021.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.


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