Commentary: Myanmar’s coup – end of the power sharing arrangement between military and civilian forces?

ADELAIDE: Just earlier than the newly elected members of Myanmar’s parliament have been as a result of be sworn in immediately, the military detained the nation’s de facto chief, Aung San Suu Kyi; the president, Win Myint; and different key figures from the elected ruling social gathering, the National League for Democracy.

The military later introduced it had taken management of the nation for 12 months and declared a state of emergency. This is a coup d’etat, whether or not the military calls it that or not.

READ: Commentary: Why a military coup cannot be the solution in Myanmar

In November, the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi received a landslide victory in nationwide elections, with the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) faring poorly in its key strongholds.

Humiliated by the end result, the USDP alleged the election was topic to widespread fraud.

However, worldwide observers, together with the Carter Center, the Asian Network for Free Elections and the European Union’s Election Observation Mission, all declared the elections a hit. 

The EU’s preliminary assertion famous that 95 per cent of observers had rated the course of “good” or “very good”.

Reputable native organisations, equivalent to the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE), agreed. These teams issued a joint assertion on Jan 21 saying “the results of the elections were credible and reflected the will of the majority voters”.

READ: Commentary: Why Myanmar voted overwhelmingly for Aung San Suu Kyi again

Yet, taking a web page out of former US President Donald Trump’s e book, the USDP pressed its claims of fraud regardless of the absence of any substantial proof – a transfer designed to undermine the legitimacy of the elections.

The military didn’t initially again the USDP’s claims, but it surely has progressively begun to offer the social gathering with extra assist, with the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, General Min Aung Hlaing, refusing to rule out a coup final week.

Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi appears in October 2018 along side Senior General

Myanmar’s civilian chief Aung San Suu Kyi seems in October 2018 alongside aspect Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who has led a coup during which she was arrested. (Photo: AFP/Handout)

The following day, the nation’s election authorities broke weeks of silence and firmly rejected the USDP’s claims of widespread fraud – setting the stage for what Myanmar historian Thant Myint-U known as “[Myanmar’s] most acute constitutional disaster” since the abolition of the old system in 2010.


It is difficult to see how the military will benefit from today’s actions, since the power-sharing arrangement it had struck with the NLD under the 2008 constitution had already allowed it to expand its influence and economic interests in the country.

The military had previously ruled Myanmar for half a century after General Ne Win launched a coup in 1962. A so-called internal “self-coup” in 1988 brought a new batch of military generals to power.

That military government, led by Senior General Than Shwe, allowed elections in 1990 that were won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. The military leaders, however, refused to acknowledge the results.

READ: Commentary: Myanmar’s 2020 elections a major test for Aung San Suu Kyi

In 2008, a new constitution was drawn up by the government which reserved 25 per cent of the national parliament seats for the military and allowed it to appoint the ministers of defence, border affairs and home affairs, as well as a vice president.

Elections in 2010 were boycotted by the NLD, but the party won a resounding victory in the next elections in 2015.

Since early 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi has been de facto leader of Myanmar, even though there is still no civilian oversight of the military.

READ: Myanmar’s ousted NLD party calls for release of Aung San Suu Kyi, other leaders


Until this past week, the relationship between civilian and military authorities was tense at times, but overall largely cordial. It was based on a mutual recognition of overlapping interests in key areas of national policy.

Indeed, this power-sharing arrangement has been extremely comfortable for the military, as it has had full autonomy over security matters and maintained lucrative economic interests.

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees are reflected in rain water along an embankment next to paddy fields

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees are mirrored in rain water alongside an embankment subsequent to paddy fields after fleeing from Myanmar into Palang Khali, close to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh Nov 2, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay)

The partnership allowed the military’s “clearance operations” in Rakhine State in 2017 that resulted in the exodus of 740,000 principally Muslim Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh.

In the wake of that pogrom, Aung San Suu Kyi vigorously defended each the nation and its military at the International Court of Justice. Myanmar’s international fame – and Aung San Suu Kyi’s as soon as-esteemed private standing – suffered deeply and by no means recovered.

Nonetheless, there was one key level of competition between the NLD and military: The constitutional prohibitions that made it inconceivable for Aung San Suu Kyi to formally take the presidency.

Some NLD figures have additionally voiced deep issues about the everlasting function claimed by the armed forces as an arbiter of all authorized and constitutional issues in the nation.

READ: Commentary: Myanmar doing rather well despite the Lady hauled to Hague for Rohingya’s plight

READ: Commentary: The Rohingya crisis has diminished the once towering figure of Aung San Suu Kyi


Regardless of how occasions unfold this week and past, Myanmar’s fragile democracy has been severely undermined by the military’s actions.

The NLD authorities has definitely had its shortcomings, however a military coup is a major backwards step for Myanmar – and is unhealthy information for democracy in the area.

It’s troublesome to see this motion as something aside from a manner for General Min Aung Hlaing to retain his outstanding place in nationwide politics, given he’s mandated to retire this yr when he turns 65.

With the poor electoral efficiency of the USDP, there are not any different conceivable political routes to power, equivalent to by means of the presidency.

Myanmar Election

Supporters of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) wave the social gathering flags and cheer from vehicles throughout an election marketing campaign for subsequent month’s normal election on Oct 1, 2020, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (Photo: AP/Aung Shine Oo)

A coup will probably be counterproductive for the military in some ways. Governments round the world will seemingly now apply or lengthen sanctions on members of the military.

Indeed, the US has launched an announcement saying it could “take action” towards these accountable. Foreign funding in the nation – besides maybe from China – can also be prone to plummet.

As Myanmar’s individuals have already loved a decade of elevated political freedoms, they’re additionally prone to be uncooperative topics as military rule is re-imposed.

The 2020 normal election demonstrated, as soon as once more, the distaste in Myanmar for the political function of the armed forces and the enduring recognition of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her detention undermines the fragile coalition that was steering Myanmar by means of a dangerous interval, and may show a messy end to the worthwhile detente between civilian and military forces.

Adam Simpson isSenior Lecturer at the University of South Australia. Nicholas Farrelly is Professor and Head of Social Sciences at the University of Tasmania. This commentary first appeared on The Conversation.

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