Myanmar, also called Burma, has had a military take-over of the newly-elected military and civilian government. Early on Monday morning, February 1, local time, the titular head of state, world-famous Aung Sun Suu Kyi, was placed under house-arrest along with other key officials. Today was to be the first day for the new parliament to meet. A “state of emergency” has been declared for a year.
For those who are unfamiliar with Burmese politics, it is simplest to say that one military group after another has been ruling (and ruining) Burma since 1962. No matter whether elections were held or not, the military stayed in charge. Usually, after elections the results were annulled by the military one way or another. That happened again today.
It is too soon to tell what is really happening, but early reports are that it is getting increasingly difficult to do communication and banking. Mass media are off the air. Military are in evidence in the streets of the capital and Yangon. But there is no restriction of movement by people going to markets and places to eat. The BBC will tell us more.
It is also too soon to tell how this will impact the chasms that exist between ethnic groups in Burma. A state of intermittent civil war has been going on ever since the British departed after World War II. This coup is unlikely to bring a peaceful end to those battles and the refugees and internally-displaced-populations that have resulted. Throughout South East Asia the military are reluctant to be out of power.
Here in Chiang Mai we have friends who have family in Burma. Our university has students living there, taking on-line courses. Thousands of laborers from Burma are working in Thailand and there are many businesses affected. Actually, the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused a lot of trouble, now being added-to. We are concerned for them.
The fact that this coup replaces an elected government is symbolically significant. Burma cannot pretend to be democratic in any sense. The military has defied the constitution they themselves drafted and promised to obey as recently as last Saturday. That draws a little tangential attention to neighboring countries where democracy is a sham; it’s embarrassing but it will not facilitate a copy-cat coup around here. ASEAN could take some action to chide Myanmar for this coup, but it probably will not. Western nations such as Great Britain and the USA will issue statements and maybe cut off donations, but not more than that unless violence breaks out or human rights violations come to light.
This coup in Burma is not as clear a sign that democracy is being assailed hither and yon as was the insurrection in Washington DC on January 6, but this coup, unlike the one in the USA, was probably successful. That’s the most we can say for now.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.