Follow Us:

Way forward

The till recently ruling Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy had, it must not be forgotten, not only attempted to reduce the military’s political authority but also outright denied the Tatmadaw’s demand for an investigation into the November 2020 General Election which was the pretext used by the military dictatorship to assume all political power.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The latest bout of hand wringing in Western capitals over the coup in Myanmar is only to be expected. For, rather than trusting a leader with established liberal-democratic credentials such as Aung San Suu Kyi, they fell prey to the propaganda of rent-a-quote pressure groups seeking mutual bliss-points without a clue about the full picture in Rakhine state and the warp and woof of Rohingya politics which includes a viciously radical Islamist agenda just as it does excesses by security forces.

Governments were successfully lobbied to undermine the fledgling democracy the former State Counsellor was trying her best in difficult circumstances to nurture in the troubled country.

In fact, the democratically elected civilian leadership under Ms Suu Kyi had slowly but surely been getting the military establishment or Tatmadaw to loosen its vice-like grip on the institutions of power over the past decade, a complicated task at the best of times given the reality that the army, which wielded complete control over Myanmar between 1962 and 2010, is very much an entrenched player in the country’s politics.

The till recently ruling Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy had, it must not be forgotten, not only attempted to reduce the military’s political authority but also outright denied the Tatmadaw’s demand for an investigation into the November 2020 General Election which was the pretext used by the military dictatorship to assume all political power.

Also, unlike in the West, nationalism is not a bad word in these parts where a vast majority of the people, while fiercely pro-democracy, are equally resistant to any effort to impinge on their sovereignty whether it be on the Rohingya issue or any other. The vilification of Ms Suu Kyi, once the darling of the global left-liberal establishment, for taking an occasionally ambivalent view on the troubles in Rakhine has not helped the cause of democracy in tough conditions. Now the talk in world capitals is, once more, about punitive sanctions to get Myanmar back on the democratic path.

That would be akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of the people. Not only did the West not extend support to the civilian leadership when it was attempting to curtail the powers of the junta, it is now hesitating to fight for the political rights of people in Myanmar by providing direct support for the NLD which best represents the democratic will of the people of Myanmar.

The use of sanctions is unlikely to propel Myanmar’s military dictators toward democracy; most analysts are agreed that it will be ordinary people who will, as usual, suffer their economic impact. Myanmar’s neighbours in Asia are sure to continue prioritising economic engagement, regardless of the domestic political circumstances.

As Cornell University’s Van Tran puts it: “The West will likely fail to reverse the current political trends through sanctions and will only diminish its importance and create a vacuum to be filled by Myanmar’s willing economic partners.” Learning from what has and has not worked in the past would help.