Touting Its ‘Friends’, Myanmar Regime Only Underscores Its Isolation

By The Irrawaddy 6 January 2022

It’s safe to say that Myanmar’s military regime is one of the world’s loneliest administrations, with many nations reluctant even to send a courtesy message extending congratulations on the country’s Independence Day, let alone on other occasions.

Since its power grab from the country’s democratically elected government in February, and following its brutal crackdowns on protesters last year, the junta has been largely ostracized by the international community. Western countries have imposed a series of sanctions against its members and their families. The UN still refuses to consider its request to replace Myanmar’s current pro-democracy ambassador to the world organization. Closer to home, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to which Myanmar belongs, has excluded coup leader Min Aung Hlaing from its summits over his failure to implement a promised peace plan. In short, Myanmar’s military regime lacks international recognition and its leaders have become social and political outcasts as a result of the coup.

Then—unknowingly—they confessed as much!

The admission came in the form of self-aggrandizing propaganda printed in the regime’s state-run newspapers on Tuesday—Myanmar’s 74th annual Independence Day—and Wednesday. The papers dutifully published “felicitations” from “foreign heads of state” to coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to mark Independence Day. Those “foreign heads of state” are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Cambodian King Sihamoni and Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko. The regime’s appointed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin also received messages from his Russian, Cambodian, Serbian and North Korean counterparts.

For the regime, printing the messages was a proud boast to show that it has supporters despite the West’s moves to isolate it. Of course, receiving felicitations from just five countries when you officially have diplomatic relations with 125 is quite ridiculous. In other words, it is a clear testament to the regime’s continued lack of international recognition and legitimacy, despite nearly a year having elapsed since it seized power.

If you pay closer attention to the senders, you’ll see that all are more or less pariah states, while some have leaders with personal interests in the regime. Russia, Serbia and Belarus sell arms to the Myanmar military, while Cambodia’s prime minister is trying to promote himself as a so-called peace broker between Myanmar and ASEAN. North Korea is a hermit state under a dictatorship. Missing from the list is China, India and Thailand. Their absence is made all the more conspicuous by the fact that the regime occasionally praises them as “our good neighbors”—China for its reliable vetos of any resolutions critical of the regime at the UN Security Council, and India for its assistance with military hardware. As for Thailand, Min Aung Hlaing has personal ties with elites in the country’s leadership.

It would be fair to recall the world’s reaction to Myanmar’s Independence Day one year ago, under the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy government, which was later ousted by the coup. For the record, both President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were showered with felicitations from such global dignitaries as Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II, Xi Jinping, Joko Widodo, Moon Jae-in and others. In a nutshell, the NLD government still received a total of 38 messages from heads of state near and far, from North America and Europe to the Middle East and Africa, Asia and Australia, as well as the Caribbean nation of Cuba, despite international condemnation for its silence on the military’s mistreatment of the Rohingya.

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