TCSS Security Commentaries #020
Dr. Chosein Yamahata, Aichi Gakuin University
The shocking news of five unarmed youths, holding hands together and choosing to jump off from a building to their deaths, rather than be subjected to brutal arrest by the junta’s security forces, have clouded Myanmar with yet another tragic news since the coup d’état. At the same time, the people of Myanmar could not be prouder of their sacrifice, as it reveals the spirit of the nation: the revolution must succeed. The same sentiment is echoed by the people of Myanmar through everyday acts of resistance, ranging from online activism to parahita to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Their collective rejection of the junta, the State Administration Council (SAC), and its recently formed caretaker government show the world that the coup has failed. The junta cannot represent nor govern Myanmar while the people’s vision of a federal multi-ethnic society is underway with the establishment of the National Unity Government (NUG).
Despite devastating news and deepening crises, the spirit of the revolution lives on, and the new caretaker government will never be legitimate as long as it does. For this very reason, Min Aung Hlaing and the rest of the junta are desperate to seek legitimacy, if not domestically, then internationally. According to the UN Special Envoy, “the Commander-in-Chief appears determined to solidify his grip on power with the latest caretaker government announcement; also, with the formal annulment of the election result from last year and declaration of the Commander-in-Chief to be Prime Minister of the country.” The illegitimate formation of the caretaker government is followed by China’s transferring of economic assistance amounting to US$ 6 million to fund 21 development projects within the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework while China’s ambassador addressed the junta’s foreign minister as “His Excellency Union Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” China’s recognition of the caretaker government comes at a critical time comes as the UN’s Credentials Committee is deciding on who should be given the legitimate representation at the UN in the upcoming the UNGA 76 scheduled on 14 September.
Whatever the decision may be, Myanmar’s ongoing crises due to a series of crimes against humanity by the junta will not avert the coming collision of the junta and NUG to determine the future of Myanmar’s present and coming generations. Although there is no declaration of an ‘all-out’ civil war, the people of Myanmar are facing it on two fronts. The first, is a direct war by the February coup and its subsequent terrorizing brutality used to repress protests. The junta’s use of lethal force, with the intent to kill, has resulted in a total of 968 lives lost, while 7,173 were arrested. The other form of war, taking a more indirect nature, is the junta’s capitalization of COVID-19 to silence the dissident citizens protesting the military by depriving the people’s rights to oxygen, medical and emergency aid services. COVID-19 has killed 12,667 people till date while more than 331,000 cases have been reported. According to a recent study by UNDP, these ongoing two crises could result in nearly half of Myanmar’s population under poverty by early 2022. Moreover, the UK has warned the UN Security Council that half of Myanmar’s population could be infected by the virus at the current rate.
As Myanmar faces deepening crises, the UN and the rest of the world must realise that the junta’s actions, while unprecedented in scale, is not new in form. History is repeating itself as Myanmar’s earlier dictators Gen. Ne Win (1962-1988), Gen. Saw Maung, Gen. Than Shawe (1992-2010) and now, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing have staged a coup to crush any legitimate civilian government, democracy and human rights activists, political pluralism, development, and ethnic diversity. This time in 2021, and some time to come, the Commander-in-Chief, as a chosen proxy to represent the military’s interests as former dictators have, will to ruin the country and the developments it has made since 2015. Therefore, it is worth repeating what the UN Special Envoy warned about the importance of immediate, collective, and decisive international action to tackle Myanmar’s worsening crises, since the formation of a caretaker government is “an attempt to promote legitimacy against lack of international action taken.”
Crises are expected to worsen under the junta’s caretaker government as the junta emptied the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s belongings from her Naypyidaw house while her whereabouts remain unknown and banned the lawyers of the State Counsellor from talking to media.
Dr. Chosein Yamahata is Professor of Global and Area Studies at the Graduate School of Policy Studies, Aichi Gakuin University in Japan.