Tag Archives: Myanmar

Twilight over Burma

“History repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce,” according to Marx.

The 1962 coup in Burma was followed by five decades of harsh military rule. There is little farcical about the 1 February coup when in the weeks passing many unarmed protesters have been killed including many children. The situation in Myanmar gives rise to grave concern. Fitch Solutions is projecting a “conservative” 20% contraction for the 2020-21 fiscal year in Myanmar. It said this month the rising death toll combined with increased social instability means “all areas of GDP by expenditure are set to collapse.”

The garment sector is at a halt with many factories in Yangon being burnt down by a wave of anti-Chinese feeling. People are angry at the complicit support of China over the military take over. The military has been switching off the internet in order to prevent people from finding out what is going on and to organise protests. Also, to prevent news from reaching the outside world. Many journalists have been arrested, some still remain in detention, and news organisations have had their licenses withdrawn. Closing down the internet for periods of the day comes at an economic cost. The fragile banking system is already teetering with depositors limited to how much they can draw from their accounts. Exporters cannot reach their customers.

The Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, still has access to its funds from gems, jade, and oil and gas. Its business interests operating in a mafia like way which isolates it from the economic collapse. The ordinary Burmese have no such isolation with many now considering fleeing to India and Thailand. An influx of refugees shows the problems to Thailand of having an unstable Myanmar on its borders. The resistance has now shifted from the main cities to the Shan states in NW Myanmar. Police stations have been attacked. Another area of traditional resistance is on the Indian border with an equal influx of refugees. A massive humanitarian disaster is on the cards.

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Standing with Myanmar – Military rule and the struggle for democracy in Myanmar

History appears to be repeating itself in Myanmar with the military unwilling to relinquish control. Will thousands be killed again, as massive numbers of people nationwide protest in the streets and are engaged in civil disobedience?

Following independence from British colonial rule in 1948, disagreements amongst political elites, the civil wars with ethnic-based groups and anxieties over communist influence led to General Ne Win forming a caretaker government in 1958. An election was held in 1960, but when minority groups pushed for a loose federal structure, which were seen by the military as separatist movements, General Ne Win took over in a coup d’état.

Since then, for the next 30 years, Myanmar was ruled by the military. In 1974, a new Constitution was established and a one-party system was adopted, whereby military officers resigned and governed through the Burma Socialist Programme Party. Protests were held against military rule throughout the 1960s and 1970s, which were crushed, culminating in a major unrest and widespread pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988. Thousands were killed. Martial law was declared in 1989 and Burma was renamed Myanmar.

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Observations of an expat: A sad Burmese tale

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This week’s coup in Myanmar (aka Burma) is a warning of the dangers of Faustian pacts between politicians and the military.

To be fair, the political manoeuvrability of human rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi was severely limited. Her country had been under a brutal military regime for nearly half a century when she started talks with the generals.  And she was negotiating while under house arrest.

But the government which eventually resulted in multi-party general elections in 2015 and again last November was neither political fish nor fowl and thus inherently unstable. The Tatmadaw (the military’s name for itself) called the result a “discipline-flourishing democracy.”

The new constitution allowed multi-party elections, but 25 percent of the seats were reserved for the military’s political vehicle the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP); which had a blocking vote because major legislation required a three-quarters majority.

In addition, the cabinet portfolios of defence, border security and home affairs were held by serving military officers.  The military also appointed two of the vice presidents. Ms Suu Kyi was specifically barred from the presidency by constitutional clause which said no one married to a non-Burmese citizen or who had non-Burmese children could hold the top job. Aung San Suu Kyi was married to a British subject and had British children.

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