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Myanmar’s Relapse


The military coup in Myanmar following a clear win in the elections for Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, indicates the fragile nature of democracy not only in that country, but in many others where people are still struggling for representative government. This also underlines the need for people in functioning democracies to appreciate their system more. Myanmar suffered under the rule of the military for five decades even though it was envisaged as a democratic nation after independence from the British. For a number of reasons, particularly its strategic location and the existence of rebel movements, it degenerated into a military run society. The result was a failure to develop as a modern nation. Of course, the patronage provided by China to the military regime also had a role to play.

The international community is naturally concerned about this turn of events, but there is only a little that it can do except express support for Aung San Suu Kyi, who has lost some of her sheen as a Nobel Laureate for Peace because of her silence on the Rohingya crackdown. It is unlikely that the international human rights wallahs will be batting for her as vigorously as they did before.

India too will be disappointed, though its relations with the Myanmar military have been more positive in the recent past. There has been cooperation in dealing with some of the NE insurgent outfits that take shelter in that country, but not all. It is unlikely that relations or cooperation will deteriorate, but this fact will make it harder to apply pressure on the restoration of democracy. Other means will have to be found that could influence the military to return to the barracks. Once again, the international community will look to the US, but given the present circumstances there, little will be forthcoming except the usual condemnations on various forums. Bangladesh will be particularly concerned as it could aggravate the Rohingya situation.

Although the incarceration of many elected leaders has been ended by the Myanmar military, the whereabouts of the deposed leader are unknown. Having spent almost her entire life fighting military rule, she will have to again begin her struggle when, eventually, she is released. The people will join her in the fight, but if the past is any indication, it could prove a long one. This event, however, does show that democracy isn’t to be taken for granted – it needs to be strengthened and respected every step of the way.