Myriad woes

Myriad woes


The junta, which is renowned for attacking civilians, conducted air strikes on an opposition rally in the rebel-held Sagaing district on Tuesday, killing over 100 people, including women and children. 

Points to Ponder:

  • Myanmar’s military dictatorship has conducted airstrikes on opposition meetings, killing civilians as well as opposition militants.
  • The battle between the regime and the National Unity Government (NUG) and its armed branch, the People’s Defence Force (PDF), as well as ethnic militias, has devolved into a civil war.
  • The administration holds the majority of population centers but has lost large swaths of territory to the opposition, necessitating the deployment of air strikes as a tactic.
  • Regional powers including Russia, China, and India have given the regime implicit support, while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has submitted a five-point peace plan that the regime has refused to engage with.
  • Restoring democracy under a federal constitutional order is the only long-term and just option.
  • Regional powers and the international community must employ economic and political pressure to push the dictatorship to negotiate and share power with the opposition.
  • Sanctions and other economic and political pressure can be used to accomplish this.
  • A peaceful resolution is critical for Southeast Asia’s stability, and regional and international parties must not view the crisis as Myanmar’s internal problem.

Background on Myanmar’s political unrest

  • Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, was ruled by a military dictatorship from 1962 until 2011, when former general Thein Sein began transitioning to a quasi-civilian government.
  • However, the transition was partial, since the military retained enormous power and influence over the government and the country’s institutions.
  • In the country’s first free and fair elections in decades, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding win in 2015.
  • Despite being excluded from the presidency due to a constitutional provision, Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner, and Nobel winner became the country’s de facto leader.
  • The world community chastised Suu Kyi’s government for its treatment of ethnic minorities, particularly the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine province.
  • Over 700,000 Rohingya refugees were forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017 as a result of a military campaign in Rakhine state.
  • Despite the criticism, the NLD won a landslide victory in the 2020 elections, but the military called the results into question, claiming voter fraud.
  • The military staged a coup in February 2021, arresting Suu Kyi and other key government officials and proclaiming a state of emergency.
  • Protests and civil disobedience erupted after the coup, but the military responded with deadly crackdowns, murdering hundreds of citizens.
  • In reaction to the coup, opposition organizations founded the NUG, which has subsequently been recognized as Myanmar’s legitimate government by various countries.
  • The battle between the regime and the NUG and its armed branch, the People’s Defence Force (PDF), as well as ethnic militias, has devolved into a civil war.

India’s Stand on this issue

  • India’s present pro-democracy position is a departure from its earlier pro-democracy stance, motivated by a desire to balance China’s influence and suppress insurgencies along the Indo-Myanmar border.
  • After Myanmar acquired independence in 1948, India and Myanmar were once close allies, but their ties deteriorated following Myanmar’s military revolution in 1962.
  • In 1988, India sided with pro-democracy camps, chastised the junta, provided material support to democracy campaigners, and established refugee camps in areas populated by political activists.
  • In the 1990s, India’s foreign policy evolved from Nehruvian idealism to realism, and its attitude towards Myanmar shifted from pro-democracy to pro-military.
  • India’s present strategy prioritizes security and political reasons over democratic values, and the country has made no statement on the coup or formally recognized the results of the 2020 elections.
  • The reason for India’s change is to offset China’s influence in Myanmar and to restrain rebel groups in north-eastern India that it accuses China of aiding.
  • India believes that building a strong relationship with Myanmar will serve its interests better in the long run, and the Tatmadaw’s inability and unwillingness to respond to India’s concerns means that India would lose relatively little by endorsing the country’s democratically elected leaders.

Way forward

  • Increased international pressure: The international community, including regional countries and organizations such as the UN, should impose economic and political pressure on the regime to negotiate and share power with the opposition.
  • Negotiation and dialogue: The regime should be urged to engage in dialogue with the opposition, especially the NUG, to find a peaceful settlement to the crisis.
  • ASEAN’s five-point peace plan implementation: All sides should implement and support the ASEAN plan to cease hostilities and begin the inclusive discussion.
  • Demobilization and disarmament: Both the regime and opposition organizations should be urged to disarm and demobilize their fighters.
  • Humanitarian assistance and support: Humanitarian assistance and support should be provided to people impacted by the conflict, particularly refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as to local organizations offering assistance.
  • Engagement and negotiation with ethnic minority groups: Engaging and negotiating with ethnic minority groups with long-standing grievances with the central government is critical to achieving long-term peace.
  • Accountability and justice: The regime and opposition organizations must be held accountable for human rights breaches, and victims and their families must be granted justice.