Myanmar’s coup: what can we do? What should we do? – Liberal Article
The situation in Myanmar is out of control, with yesterday being the bloodiest day of the coup so far. 38 protesters were killed. But why are they protesting? Once more, their right to democracy has been taken away. The government must do everything in its power to restore democracy to Myanmar; Myanmar’s people have suffered at the hands of military coups and governance for too long. While Boris Johnson has once again called for an immediate end to repression history should tell him that condemnation, and limited sanctions, are not enough.
Last November, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) won over 80% of the vote. There were immediate calls of election fraud, one repeated over the past couple of months by the military-backed opposition. Unsubstantiated accusations of voter fraud? Sounds familiar, right…? In Myanmar, the situation has escalated beyond just accusations. On the 1st of February, a military coup overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi, and key government members were detained.
But this is beyond novel. In 1962, only fourteen years after they were granted independence, the military staged a coup; the undemocratic regime would remain in power until 2011. This lesson should demonstrate that repression could once again be here to stay if something is not done quickly.
So far, most major global democracies have voiced criticism – indicating that sanctions are likely to follow. The UK has imposed asset freezes and travel bans for Myanmar’s military leaders. Further safeguards have been placed to prevent UK aid money from supporting the junta. These SMART sanctions are a good way to go. UK trade with Myanmar is low, with trade restrictions being ineffective. Other countries must follow suit and target specific people to force a change. This would reduce the impact on citizens’ lives, and hopefully, if enough countries impose sanctions, something will change.
There is a significant issue that western democracies face, highlighted by the response to the situation in Myanmar: China. As a UN Security Council member, China is provided with a veto on UN action. The UN exists as a body aiming to maintain international peace and achieve international cooperation between countries. What we are witnessing in Myanmar is not peace. The UN’s job is to intervene, yet China has vetoed a collective condemnation statement. At the very least, this is tacit support for the coup – the world cannot sit by and watch. Whilst the Chinese’s reasons centre around scepticism of intervention by the international community, this is not good enough.
This begs the question: what can we do about Myanmar? With China supporting the military and their main source of trade, it is unlikely that sanctions will make a difference; however, I present a suggestion.
All nations that believe in democracy and elections must collectively work together. I have mentioned that China will largely support them in trade. However, other countries are still significantly important to the military regime. Japan and South Korea are integrated with Myanmar’s economy; the international community must convince them to apply pressure onto their banks and businesses to starve Myanmar’s money source. Cutting off direct revenue streams could force the military to interact with the international community. Instead of seriously impacting the people of Myanmar, getting companies to direct the revenues into escrow would get their attention.
Condemnation and sanctions from the UK are a good start, but we need to do more. For democracy to stand any chance of returning to Myanmar soon, collectively, the international democratic community must come together to really apply pressure to the military government.
Written by Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
Democracy? What Democracy? – A Labour Response
You state, ‘However, history should tell him (Boris Johnson) that condemnation and limited sanctions are not enough.’ But what else can history tell him? Myanmar, under the name Burma, was once a colony of the British Empire. A country subjected to Britain’s despotic rule. As Orwell writes in an article about the colonial presence of the British in Burma, ‘In 1820 they seized a vast expanse of territory. This operation was repeated in 1852, and finally, in 1882 the Union Jack flew over almost all the country.’
What followed was the systematic exploitation of Burma and its resources. Britain, to solidify its control over Burma, instigated a façade of democracy. Orwell continues, ‘Burma, like each of the Indian provinces, has a parliament-always the show of democracy – but in reality, its parliament has very little power.’ Is this parliamentary dynamic reflected in modern-day Myanmar, the British being the military and Aung San Suu Kyi being the show of democracy, pre-coup? For that enshrines the thrust of my response. You claim that we must do all that we can to prevent crystallisation of the repression that is on-going as a result of the coup, ‘This should be enough of a lesson to demonstrate that repression could once again be here to stay in Myanmar (referring to the period 1962-2011)’.
The genocide of the Rohingyas was happening before the coup!
Interviews of 3,321 Rohingya Muslims in the households in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh (a safe haven for Rohingya refugees), revealed that in January 2018 the military and local Rakhine population killed at least 24,000 Rohingya people. Gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were also perpetuated by these two groups. It has been estimated that 116,000 Rohingya were beaten, and 36,000 were thrown into fires. The British government should feel morally obligated to cultivate true democracy in Myanmar and ameliorate military presence within its government. After all, the British Empire pre-empted the hatred of the Rohingyas by fostering ethnic divisions to maintain its extractive economy without the threat of substantive opposition.
Aung San Suu Kyi, perceived by your article as a force for good and a symbol of democracy, stood idly by whilst a genocide took place. Even if we weren’t to use the persecution of the Rohingyas as an example of how undemocratic Myanmar was pre-coup, a closer look at the civil government reveals that under Aung San Suu Kyi, ‘there was an authoritarian crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent similar to the years under military rule.’ So…
Let us not make the same mistakes as before if there is a return to pre-coup Myanmar. You write, ‘In November, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy won over 80% of the vote.’ This enabled them to alter the constitution set by the military which I would argue motivated the coup. What sort of mistakes am I referring to? Before her admission to power, when she was released from house arrest, the EU and US removed sanctions on Myanmar. There was no demand from the international community to rewrite the 2008 constitution drafted by the military.
So, when Aung San Suu Kyi was admitted to office in 2015 her powers were greatly limited. The uplifting of sanctions resulted in the government of Myanmar’s budget rising to $100m a year, and their business interests in hotels and mobile phone networks boomed. Thus, the military-led government of Myanmar benefited from the Aung San Suu Kyi’s ascension to the position of state counsellor. There she stood; a symbol of hope manufactured by the military to mislead the international community. Adorning Myanmar’s political landscape with a false idol of western progressivism.
It is easy to idealise the past because of the coup. To willfully distort the faux democracy of pre-coup Myanmar as something valuable and worthwhile. But should we not think more radically? A new democratic party, run by a committee, to avoid the inevitable cult of personality developed when individual figures are bestowed with too much political power.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, George Stroud
We Need Targeted, Bilateral Sanctions – A Conservative Response
I strongly agree with Fletcher’s condemnation of the current events in Myanmar.
The news stories and videos of the barbarism and murder filtering through (despite the best efforts of the regime) are nothing short of harrowing. Any claims of shooting to ‘disperse’ are clearly nonsense. Burmese soldiers have even taken their pathetic superiority complexes to TikTok, with one claiming that he will headshot any protester he sees.
In terms of the question of what to do, bilateral pressure from Myanmar’s closest partners needs to be placed. In terms of influence, the UK is not very useful in this situation.
The top three trading partners for Myanmar, are (1) China; (2) Thailand; and (3) the EU. Fletcher also correctly notes the importance of Japan and South Korea; these entities need to enforce bilateral sanctions.
These sanctions need also be targeted. Min Aung Hlaing (Commander-in-Chief of the Army), Soe Win (Min Aung Hlaing’s deputy), Mya Tun Oo (Defence Secretary), and more, need their: assets frozen, mobility restricted, exports banned, and imports of arms stopped.
This doesn’t mean that we do nothing, but that we direct our efforts toward persuading the right people. We need to hit them where it hurts.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Alexander Dennis
I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.
Hello, I’m Alexander Dennis, and I am going into my third undergraduate year at the University of Exeter. I study Politics & International Relations, with a possible year abroad hanging in the balance. My particular interest in politics really started in early 2016: yes, it was ‘Brexit’. I was at once intrigued, and confused, by something so critical. From that baptism, I have become somewhat addicted to political discussion, intrigued by issues ranging from drugs policy to taxation. So I followed my nose: I applied for a degree in the subject.