A special court in Burma’s capital city found ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi responsible for instigating and violating coronavirus bans and punished her to 4 years behind bars. The judgement is the first in a series of cases taken against the National League for Democracy’s leader after the junta ousted her government. Suu Kyi’s supporters claim the prosecutions are unfounded and are intended to damage her political career by tying her up in judicial processes so that the military can take control. The military, on the other hand, claims that Suu Kyi is being treated fairly by an impartial court presided over by a judge nominated by her own government. She was the leader of a democratically elected government until being deposed by a military coup in February. Protests against the coup were violently suppressed. The military has failed to establish control almost a year after the military takeover. The economy is deteriorating, the educational and health systems are faltering, poverty levels are soaring, and the conflict is becoming more intense. The junta faces civic resistance as well as armed opposition from the people’s defence forces and ethnic armed groups.
To fully grasp the reasons for Aung San Suu Kyi’s conviction and the present political turmoil in Myanmar, this article will provide a brief overview of Myanmar’s political history, the factors that triggered the military coup in early 2021, the coup’s economic impact on the country, and the international community’s reaction to both the coup and the recent conviction of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Finally, we’ll talk about the position of India and a viable path ahead for dealing with the complex matter deftly.
MYNAMARR’S POLITICAL HISTORY: BRIEF OVERVIEW
It all started in 1948, when the nation gained freedom from British colonial authority. For many years, Ne Win, a military commander, launched a coup in 1962 and administered the nation as a junta. After four decades of freedom, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of an independence hero, returned to her homeland in 1988, just as pro-democracy demonstrations against the junta were exploding. She was placed under house arrest the next year. Two years later, Suu Kyi’s NLD secured a resounding win in elections. Despite the military’s resistance to relinquishing authority, she was honoured with the Nobel Prize for her nonviolent resistance.
Suu Kyi was then released from jail in 2010, and two years later she won a by-election to assume her position in Parliament, making her the first woman to occupy a public office in Myanmar. In the first publicly contested general elections in 25 years, the NLD achieved a landslide win in 2015. A constitution that also prohibited Suu Kyi from the presidency gave the military tremendous influence. She was given the title of state counsellor in order to lead the government. Rohingya terrorists conducted assaults throughout Rakhine state shortly after the government began its democratic transition. The military retaliated by launching a huge crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, who started fleeing in droves to Bangladesh. Suu Kyi was charged with genocide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the deportation of Rohingya Muslims, which Suu Kyi defended in December 2019. Thomas Andrews, the UN human rights investigator in Myanmar, said that the November 2020 elections will fall short of international standards due to the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. The army leader, Min Aung Hlaing, also warned that the civilian administration was making “unacceptable errors” in the run-up to the election, the second such warning in two days. However, the election was held, and the NLD won an overall majority in Parliament.
MILITARY COUP OF 2021
The military, which had argued before the country’s Supreme Court to claim that the November 8 election results were illegitimate, promised to “take action” and surrounded the houses of Parliament with troops in January 2021, raising the potential for a coup. The electoral commission dismissed the military’s suspicions of election fraud, stating there was no proof to back up their assertions. Myanmar’s military seized control of the nation on February 1 and declared a one-year state of emergency, claiming the government’s inability to act on fraud allegations. In the early-morning raid, Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other prominent members of the governing party were seized.
When looking at the events that led to the military coup, the first question that comes to mind is why would the military initiate the coup when it already had a lot of power? The military created the 2008 Constitution, which gave the military entire autonomy from the civilian government, gave the military control over key ministries, and gave the military an effective veto over any legislation passed by Parliament. So, what prompted the military to act on February 1? Among numerous ideas, one possible rationale for the coup seems to be the commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s own political ambitions. According to Penn Today, Aung Hlaing was set to retire from the military soon, and the coup seems to be a last-ditch effort to keep political power in his hands. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Yangon and other towns in protest of the February 1 coup, the largest display of popular indignation since the 2007 riots that led to democratic changes. Myanmar’s military retaliated with a crackdown that killed at least 320 people, according to AAPP statistics. Hundreds of those jailed in the junta’s crackdown were released on March 24. Authorities have not provided any figures, but AAPP said that 628 individuals were freed after being detained over 2,900 times since the coup. The military’s tactics, however, proved to be ineffective, since Myanmar is now racked by practically daily demonstrations.
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY’S REACTION TO THE COUP AND CONVICTION OF AUNG SAN SUU KYI
Immediately after the takeover, the US and a number of other nations expressed concern and demanded that Myanmar’s military promptly release Suu Kyi and other jailed government members, as well as honour the November election results. On March 25, the United States and the United Kingdom placed sanctions on military-controlled companies in Myanmar, after reports that security forces had murdered five more pro-democracy protestors in a repressive crackdown. New sanctions on Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited were announced by the US Treasury Department in Washington. Both are part of a huge military-controlled network that encompasses a wide range of industries, from mining to tourism, and has benefited the generals. Individuals related to the coup had previously been sanctioned by the US, and junta chief and army commander General Min Aung Hlaing was already restricted owing to previous human rights violations. The European Union also issued penalties against 11 people, with associated companies also anticipated to be targeted shortly. Southeast Asian foreign ministers have called for an end to the violence in Myanmar and the commencement of discussions on a peaceful settlement. Australia also demanded that Suu Kyi and other top officials held by the military be released immediately. Other nations, like Canada, are involved. Japan and New Zealand have also issued comments urging a de-escalation of the situation and the release of those who have been arrested.
The international community’s response to Aung San Suu Kyi’s conviction was identical to their reaction to the coup. The convictions were called “unjust” and “affronts to democracy and justice” by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who spearheaded worldwide criticism of the sentencing. They demanded that the authorities free Aung San Suu Kyi and all others who had been wrongfully imprisoned. The sentencing was dubbed “another reprehensible attempt by Myanmar’s military authorities to stifle dissent and undermine freedom and democracy” by Liz Truss, former foreign minister of Britain. Residents in portions of Yangon’s commercial centre banged pots and pans, a technique that is historically connected with chasing off bad spirits but has been used to express discontent with the military since February. Analysts have characterised the allegations levelled against the former leader, which have increased in number since February, as a clear effort to delegitimize her as a political danger.
ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE COUP AND ITS RESULTANT RAMIFICATIONS
As a result of the military junta’s isolationist policies, economic mismanagement, and persistent war, Myanmar has long been poorer than most of its neighbours. However, economic changes, such as the opening up of the economy to trade and investment in 2011, resulted in some small increases. According to the World Bank, Myanmar’s GDP is likely to decline by 10% in 2021 as a result of widespread demonstrations, strikes, and sanctions after the coup. Myanmar’s citizens have attacked the economy as part of their civil disobedience movement to oppose the military’s action, hurting the financial sector. According to the demonstrators, foreign investors are also being encouraged to leave until the democratically elected government is restored. Meanwhile, in an attempt to quiet demonstrations, the junta has periodically shut down the internet, severely stifling economic activity. The projection is a stark turnaround from the World Bank’s latest economic report in October, when it was anticipated that Myanmar’s economy would expand at a pace of 5.9%, one of the region’s fastest.
CONCLUSION AND THE WAY FORWARD
India expressed its displeasure with the findings in the cases of Myanmar’s deposed leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and others, saying that the rule of law and the democratic process must be respected. Any development that weakens these processes and magnifies disparities, according to the report, is cause for grave worry. The MEA statement is crucial, and this time it is more direct than previous remarks. The progression of the remarks is very instructive. Massive demonstrations erupted in Myanmar after the military took power in a coup on February 1 this year. Hundreds of people were murdered in the crackdown on the demonstrators, including children. Following the coup, the military jailed Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). The MEA has expressed grave worry over the situation in Myanmar only hours after the coup. Weeks later, the Indian embassy in Yangon tweeted, “The loss of life in Yangon and other cities of Myanmar today is very saddening to the Embassy of India.” According to the United Nations, at least 18 people were murdered during demonstrations on this day as security forces opened fire on the demonstrators. New Delhi, on the other hand, has avoided criticising Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, because it is mindful of Beijing’s expanding influence and the high stakes involved in maintaining peace and security along the India-Myanmar border. As the neighbour has been immersed in chaos, India’s remarks have been pragmatic.
The worsening situation on the ground will influence the political options available to New Delhi in Myanmar. It remains to be seen whether the military can retain power in the face of public opposition. The Tatmadaw’s relationship with China will be crucial. It would have a significant impact on India’s security if the armed leadership became more dependent on Beijing. On the other hand, India must keep in touch with the Tatmadaw. Myanmar is a hotspot of ethnic strife in addition to the civil-military conflict. In a civil war, minority ethnic groups are fighting the main Bamar population in a civil war. If the country descends into a protracted civil war, India will be forced to deal with the consequences for its north-eastern provinces.While addressing bordering nations’ concerns, it will be necessary to consider the implications for national security and counter-insurgency.At the same time, better policy cooperation between the federal government and border states may help prevent local people from being alienated.
The unfair conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi by Myanmar’s military administration, as well as the persecution of other democratically elected politicians, are additional affronts to Myanmar’s democracy and justice. The regime’s ongoing disrespect for the rule of law, as well as its extensive use of violence against the Burmese people, highlights the need to re-establish Burma’s democratic path. It is critical that the international community calls on the regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all those who have been wrongfully detained, including other democratically elected officials, and to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties to find a peaceful solution in the people’s interest, as agreed to in the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus. The international community should rally behind Myanmar’s ambitions for freedom and democracy, and urge the government to stop using violence, respect the people’s will, and complete Myanmar’s democratic transition.
This blog is authored by Arnav Laroia, a student of National Law University, Jodhpur