Myanmar’s Coup: Fall of a Quasi-Democracy and Suu Kyi’s Torch of Human Rights
Rumi Akter/ Ph.D. Candidate, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic
On February 1, the world saw a military coup d’état in Myanmar which without shedding any blood again seized the power. The military also rejected the result of the national election held on November 8last year claiming it as fraudulent and carried out the coup. The military not only carried out the coup but also, they detained Aung San Suu Kyi who’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the election with 83 percent of the votes and was about to form the government for the second consecutive tenure after the 2015 election. Along with Suu Kyi,the Tatmadaw or the Myanmar military also arrested President U Win Myint, Cabinet Ministers, regional Chief Ministers, opposition politicians, writers and activists.Thus, the end of democracy in Myanmar began and the decade-long experiment of democracy ended with the military coup.
Myanmar’s Transition from Military Rule to Democracy
From 1962 to 2011, the Tatmadaw or the Myanmar military grabbed power and ran Myanmar under the military rule. The military also kept Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero General Aung San under house arrest for more than 15 years. She was released in 2010 when the military backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won the election. However, the international community was suspicious about the election and declared it as fraudulent. In 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) party formed by Aung San Suu Kyi won the election with a landslide victory.
Liberal Democracy or Quasi-Democracy?!
It was onlyin 2015when the world started to believethat Myanmar has successfully made the transition to become a liberal democratic country. However, the military junta of Myanmar set up their long-term plan to control the government and the state long before they handed over power to the so-called democratic system. For instance, the military amended the constitution in 2008 and reserved 25 percent of unelected parliamentary seats for the military officers. The military also made it compulsory that for any reforms their consent would be critical and necessary.
The constitutional amendment also led it happen that the Ministries of Home Affairs, Border Affairs, and Defense would be headed by serving officers from the military. Hence, the Tatmadaw did not really give up their grasp on power rather they secured their control in the government in a form of quasi-democracy.
Rohingyas and the Recent Coup
The fate of the Rohingyas was written by the Tatmadaw when they excluded the Rohingyas from the 1982 Citizenship Act. Therefore, the Rohingyas became the victim of the Myanmar military’s systemic persecution and denial of human rights. After NLD came to power in 2015 with Suu Kyi as the de facto leader of the party, everybody started to hope something good for the Rohingya people. People even began to think a permanent end of this crisis. However, the scenario got even worse when in August 2017, the Rohingyas faced severe persecution mainly led by the Myanmar military with the scorched earth policy. Nearly 1 million people fled the persecution and crossed the border to Bangladesh. This huge influx began to live in the camps of Bangladesh where the Rohingyas from previous influx were already living.
Aung San Suu Kyi was praised by the international community for her stance against inhumane acts and violation of human rights. Suu Kyi once said—“I do protect human rights, and I hope I shall always be looked up as a champion of human rights.”
However, Suu Kyi was not able to hold on her words.She consistently denied the persecution of the Rohingyas, defended the atrocities of Myanmar against the Rohingyas at a trial in the International Court of Justice in 2019. All these did nothing but tarnished her international image of the torchbearer of democracy and defender of human rights.
Regarding the future of the Rohingyas, it is hard to say and believe that their situation will improve in the military rule. The Rakhine State is a great source of interest for its mineral resourcesand its access to the sea and China has already been its eyes on it. China is also backing the military for atrocities against the Rohingyas. Hence, there is little possibility for the Rohingyas to go back to their homeland.
The (so-called) torchbearer of democracy and human rights AungSanSuuKyi is detained again by the Tatmadaw! Myanmar is again under the military rule. Rohingyas are still in the camps of Bangladesh begging for safe return to their home. The Rohingya crisis now officially declared by the United Nations as genocide, one of the international crimes which has a legal basis for the persecution.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is responsible for the trial of the defendants of genocide. So, the argument is straight forward. A universal crime must need a universal jurisdiction. If Suu Kyi could do this by involving the ICC in trialing the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide, only then the world would have remembered her as the champion of human rights as she said. However, defending the military’s atrocities against the Rohingyas let Suu Kyi down severely! I wonder if people will condemn her detention by the military anymore!