Of late, the media in Myanmar is full of articles of possible Coup, failure of the Government, the international pressure on the Rohingya Issue and consequent bad relations between the Tatmadaw and the Civilian Government. The inference being made out is that if the Government does not act, the possibility of a coup cannot be ruled out!
What is missed is that, even now the Army has the upper hand under the 2008 Constitution and can afford to wait till the situation worsens. The Army did not fail to play a 40 minute version of the events of the violence and the riots that followed the 1998 uprising that started with the students from the Yangon University. What was hidden again was the massacre that followed when thousands of innocents were killed particularly in the area around Sule Pagoda. The man who was responsible for the massacre Gen. Khin Nyuint is said to be happily running an antique shop and his book on “those days” is being quoted even now!
First, was the open discussion on constitutional provisions regarding the emergency where the President is the only one who can call for an emergency but after consulting and coordinating with the Defence and Home both led by Generals. What is more- the emergency declaration will have to be submitted to the National Defence Security Council (NDSC) where the Army Officers have a majority!
It is being spread deliberately that the NLD Govt. has failed to live up to the expectations on issues relating to 1. The Peace Process. 2. Political Stability 3. Developments in Rakhine State 4. Failing Economy.
While the Government can be blamed for their poor showing in economic matters, the Army is equally responsible for not moving enough on the peace process, stability and most importantly on the Rakhine Issue where the Army did use disproportionate force in countering the ARSA attacks.
To add to the confusion, a Spokesperson of the USDP- a party closely aligned to the Army declared that the “NLD must act to avoid another Coup.” The country is facing racial and religious pressure he said. Was he speaking on behalf of the Army?
One Army Colonel spoke in the Parliament on the virtues of democracy. Like the Devil quoting the scriptures he said that democracy is about cooperation according to the wishes of the majority and not about majority doing as they like whether it is right or wrong. “All will have to cooperate to ensure right and fair democratic practices.” If the keyword is cooperation, it is the Army that has to cooperate. Are they willing to stop their offensive against the Kachins and not insist on giving up the demand for secession before signing up the National Cease fire agreement?
It is also being openly said that the Army Chief has political ambitions and would try his hands in 2020.
For the purpose of statistics, September 18th marked the 30 years since the coup. The Tatmadaw (ARMY) held on to power for sixty years and after the 2008 Constitution continues to have a dominant political role in the country!
The sum and substance of it all is that the “fear of Army take over “ is being deliberately orchestrated and spread to keep the civilian government in check when there is an international pressure on the government to take action against the Generals for the Army’s excesses in the Rohingya affair. It is being said that the relation between Suu Kyi and the Army Chief is not as bad as is being made out and that they meet regularly but informally to discuss all the outstanding issues.
The fact-finding report of the United Nations is said to be very damning to the Army and even to the civilian government for not taking enough preventive action or reining in the Army. The report reiterated the call for the top Generals to be prosecuted for Genocide, removal of the Army’s top leadership and to remove their influence over the country’s governance.
In the UN Human Rights Council, of the 47 members, 35 voted in favour of the report, 3 opposed and 7 abstained.
The Rights Group of Amnesty International plastered “wanted” notices on the Army Chief and other Generals in and around New York.
The Tatmadaw is a proud Army not given to any external threats. It did not care for international opinion when they rejected the first ever election that voted Suu Kyi’s NLD into power. Naming and shaming them will not work. At best it will not only bring the Army and the Government together but also strengthen their determination to cling onto the 2008 Constitution which gives them a substantial political role! Suu kyi’s dream of going for reconciliation and a step by step approach for reforms by mutual consent will not work thanks to the international intervention!
As expected China has stepped in to support the beleaguered Government which I had described in an earlier paper as “Myanmar under Siege”
First it opposed the resolution of the Human Rights Council of the UN on the fact-finding report. The Chinese Representative warned that the “Rohingya Issue should not be complicated, expanded or internationalized”
While the international condemnation was going, China quietly used that opportunity to sign a regular deal in Yunnan on the CMEC Corridor on September 9.
Briefly the agreement envisioned two facets. First was the Physical corridor of road and rail connecting Yunnan to Mandalay, Yangon and finally to Kyakphyu, a deep water port and an opening to Bay of Bengal. The second was a conceptual one that aims for greater economic integration and initiatives such as industrial zones, trade quotas, tax breaks and even outside the economy in areas like disaster mitigation, public health etc.
But this time, Myanmar has been smarter than the Sri Lankans. China had initiated a proposal for an investment of 7.3 billion for the port with 85 percent stake to be taken by China. This was agreed to, by the earlier Thein Sein Government. This time, Myanmar brought the Chinese stake to 70 percent and wanted to develop only two wharves initially for 1.3 Billion dollars and depending on the gains the project makes they could go for more. China was forced to agree, but it is said that China will finally get the cancelled Myitsone Dam going again depending on the pressure mounted by the International and Western agencies on Myanmar on the Rohingya issue!
China also facilitated a bilateral meeting in the presence of UN Secretary General with the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh and Minister for office of State Counsellor of Myanmar on the repatriation of Rohingyan refugees. The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was also present. In the meeting, plans were made for a joint working group that should focus on creating a road map and a time table for the repatriation and to implement the repatriation of the first batch of 3000 Rohingyan Refugees waiting to be repatriated. But the UNHCR Spokesman Andrej Mahecic threw a spanner into that agreement saying that conditions in Maungdaw are not good enough for a ‘safe, dignified and sustainable return’.