Myanmar: The Never-Ending Military Rule

On the dawn of 1st February 2021 when most of the citizens of the free world were still in their sleep, Myanmar was heading towards military rule. The country was going through revolutionary changes in its 10 years of democracy but all this came to a halt when Tatmadaw took over the nation at gunpoint. Several important leaders along with their President Win Myint and the state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were detained by Tatmadaw. And now Myanmar is in a state of emergency for at least a year which is told by Min Aung (Commander-In-Chief of Tatmadaw).

This is not the 1st time Myanmar is having military rule in-fact the country has only seen military rule after the independence. The longest period of democracy( a semi-democratic system) which the Burmese enjoyed was from 2011 to 2021 post-independence.

Violence Before the First Military Coup

After getting independence on 4th January 1948 Myanmar went through multiple communist and tribal insurgencies. Thakin Nu of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) became the Prime Minister of Myanmar. But soon after 44 days of independence on 18th Feb 1948, Thakin Nn was overthrown (by force) by the Burmese Communist Party – White Flag (BCP-WF) headed by Thankin Than Tun and Thakin Thein Pe.

Two major rebel groups that created havoc in Myanmar was BCP-WP & the People’s Volunteer Organization-White Band (PVO-WB) led by Bo Po Kun and Bo La.

These two groups launched military action against the government troops from March 1948 to October 1950. Seeing this President Sao Shwe Thaik declared martial law on August 20, 1948. The rebels clashed with government troops and captured several important cities like Henzada, Pakokku, Yenangyaung, Chauk, Magwe, Minbu, and Sandoway till the 10th of June 1949. Hundreds of lives from both sides were lost in this.

Interference of INDIA, BRITAIN & USA

The rebels were started getting stronger than the Burmese government troops. After losing most of the important cities India, Britain, and the USA came to their aid. At the beginning of June 1949, both India and Britain helped Myanmar by giving military assistance in terms of weapons. Approximately 10k small military-grade weapons were supplied to support the government troops. Finally, with the help of foreign countries, the government troops were able to recapture the lost cities by the end of October 1950.

The government of United States Of America (USA) also agreed to provide military aid on the 17th of Oct’1950 in support of the Myanmar government.

Parliamentary Elections Before 4th July 1962

Before the 1962 Burmese coup d’état, three parliamentary elections were conducted in which the Anti Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL) won all three elections with a massive majority. 

The 1st parliamentary elections were held between June 1951 & April 1952. Ba U   was made the president on 12th March 1952. After winning the election Myanmar government officially banned BCP-WF & PVO-WB in October 1953. And in response to that started attacking trains which led to the death of 87 civilians (official data).

2nd Parliamentary elections(27th April 1956): U Min Maung was elected as the president and U Nu as the Prime Minister after winning for the 2nd time with 173 seats out of 250. This time another rebel group PVO formally declared the use of military force on July 30, 1958. PVO rebels clashed with the Government troops where approximately 15000 individuals were killed from both sides. This shook the entire nation. After the bloodbath of 15000 individuals, PVO rebels who were led by Bo Po Kun surrendered to the government troops. And they regained the legal status on 15th August 1958 and changed its name from PVO to PCP (People’s Comrade Party). After the surrender of Bo Po Kun ambitious General Ne Win grabbed this opportunity and took all the credits himself and made P.M. U Nu to step down from his chair. And on 29th October 1959, General Ne Win crowned himself as a P.M and formed the government of Myanmar.

1st Military Coup – March 2, 1962 (1962 Burmese coup d’état)

Again the AFPFL led by U Nu won the 3rd parliamentary elections and U Nu was made the P.M. But his governance didn’t last long and only after two years Burma witnessed its 1st Military Coup on 2nd of March 1962. Prime Minister U Nu was disposed of his position and General Ne Win made himself head of the state on 8th March 1962. The coup was described as a “Bloodless Coup” by the world media. Seeing the stature of the general and his hold in Myanmar politics, countries like Britain, Egypt, India, and the U.S started provided him with diplomatic assistance(diplomatic recognition). Ne Win established the Burmese Socialist Program Party (BSPP) on 4th July 1962. After the 2nd World War, the world saw the 1st massive student protest of the Rangoon University. The students protested against all the odds which were implemented in the university and also against the military regime. Seeing this the regime tried to suppress the mass movement with violence. On 7th July 1962, the troops under the command of General Ne Win opened fire on the protesters which led to the death of 15 to 17th civilians. However, this was the official data released by the government but the original data is far different from what the government says. From various unofficial sources and the people present over there says that more than a hundred civilians were shot dead and over 5000 arrests were made. And the very next day, the military regime blasted the Rangoon University Students’ Union (RUSU) building.

This showed the emergence new state ideology, the Burmese Way to Socialism, which means all of Burma’s political, social, and economic life comes under stern military control. Ne Win banned all opposition political parties on 28th March 1964. The state was under direct military rule for continuous 12 years.

With almost 95 percent of the voters in a referendum which was held from 15th to 31st December 1973 a new constitution was approved. A referendum was held from 15th to 31st December 1973 to approve a new constitution. And with 95% of the voters in the referendum, the new constitution was approved. The constitution basically approved a one-party state that is the Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) as a sole legal political identity. After the formation of the constitution legislative elections were conducted to legalize the whole process and the BSPP won 451 out of 451 seats as there was no opposition. Yet again the government proclaimed martial law on 11th December 1974.

Impact of military rule

From 1962 to 2011 Myanmar remained under the rule of the military. Oppressing numerous human rights its citizens and killing thousands of protestors and rebellions. Myanmar alienated itself from the rest of the world be it in the terms of economic or social. The military junta nationalized everything right from the land to the wholesale trade. Even private schools and large shops were nationalized. This led to their fall in their economy, the black market started emerging, the education system failed miserably and corruption reached its zenith. Economic and military sanctions were imposed by EU (European Union), Japan, and USA. The Australian government had also imposed travel ban and financial restrictions. The common citizen was isolated from the rest of the world.

Myanmar after 2011 

After the 2010 general election, military junta was officially dissolved in 2011 and around more than 300 political dissidents were released from the arrest including famous NLD (National League for Democracy) leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The nation went through a number of democratic reforms in the economic, administrative, and political areas. Numerous sanctions that were imposed on Myanmar were lifted. Citizens are now able to connect with the rest of the world with the help of internet. The economy started reviving and on 30th March 2016 Hitin Kyaw was elected as the 1st nonmilitary president of the country since the 1962 military coup and Aung San Suu Kyi as the State Counsellor on 6th April 2016, a newly created position equivalent to Prime Minister.

Myanmar had just seen the face of democracy though it was semi-democratic, the military yet again used their gun power to overthrow the present government of Aung San Suu Kyi and detained all of their political leaders including her on the 1st of February 2021.

Reason for Military Coup, 2021

According to various geopolitical analysts, the military overthrew the present government of NLD because NLD had won all the three elections with massive support after the 2010 general elections and the military could not able to digest that as they were losing the grip which once they had in their rule. That is the reason why they possibly chose to make the statement that “the 2020 elections were rigged and bogus voting were made.”

Protests in Reaction

Thousands of people including from various professions including students came out of the streets in support of anti-coup demonstrations. The protesters are demanding to free Aung San Suu Kyi by showing placards. Highway buses passing slowly through the streets honk their horns in support of the protest. In Yangon, people are carrying signs demanding officials to “stop kidnapping people at night”.

How will India act and react?

India has already made its stand clear in the official statement released by the Ministry Of External Affairs that they stand with democracy and have always supported the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. But they didn’t say anything regarding the military and about the detained leaders.

Myanmar shares over 1600km of border with India and the Myanmar military has always been friendly. This can be seen when India did a surgical strike inside Myanmar borders to kill Naga insurgents on June 9, 2015, the Myanmar military didn’t say a word or counter India’s action in any way.

It will be soon to speculate anything from India’s point of view as Indian officials are keeping a close watch on the development being made. India will plan their strategy according to the long term as China also shares its border with Myanmar and has a vested interest in it and can also use it against India in near future.

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