It has been almost two years since Senior General Min Aung Hlaing staged a coup, toppling Myanmar’s elected government and aborting the country’s fragile and long-hoped-for political transformation.
Since then, Myanmar, one of Southeast Asia’s most resource-rich countries, has rapidly descended into chaos, driven into failed-state status within a year of the takeover.
Myanmar’s young generation have come up with all sorts of methods to foil the regime, from their adept use of social media to forming armed resistance groups. Their efforts have ensured that the coup makers won’t succeed.
The nationwide 1988 uprisings, which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest against the then socialist regime, were part of a struggle committed to nonviolence. Strikingly, this time regime opponents have made no such commitment, applying whatever strategies and means are deemed necessary to end the coup.
When charismatic leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stepped into the political sphere in 1988, she resolutely held to the principles of non-violent struggle. Today she remains respected, but her supporters and many in and out of mainstream politics see the current fight through a different lens.
Myanmar’s once-respected military, also known as the Tatmadaw, today behave like war criminals and thugs, launching brutal crackdowns and burning down thousands of villages in Sagaing and Magwe regions. The regime routinely sends its Chinese and Russian-made fighter jets and helicopters to attack villages and territories where People’s Defense Force (PDF) resistance groups and ethnic armies are suspected to be stationed. Today, regime troops behave like foreign invaders.
However, the use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardment has only increased people’s abhorrence of the regime and their determination to resist and fight.
Regionally, Min Aung Hlaing and his military council are one of the most isolated regimes, and deservedly so.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) continues to shun the regime’s senior leaders including Min Aung Hlaing and his puppet foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.
Faced first with protests, then with armed resistance and international boycotts, Min Aung Hlaing has hurriedly built up a friendship with the Putin regime in Russia and maintains a steady friendship with China. The growing ties between Moscow and Naypyitaw have created anxiety among Myanmar watchers and opposition forces. But all one can say is that Min Aung Hlaing is working with troubled Putin, who now sees his side losing the war in Ukraine. Good luck with that, Min Aung Hlaing!
Knowing full well the landscape in Myanmar, China keeps the regime alive, supporting it with aid and continuing the flow of trade and arms.
Eager to catch up with China in Myanmar, and concerned about an insurgency in its Northeast region on the Myanmar border, New Delhi has embraced the regime, ignoring international concerns and rapidly using up all the goodwill capital it had built with the Myanmar people in the past.
Now what? All three countries have deservedly been condemned by the Myanmar people.
They should know that not everyone suffers loudly. The Myanmar people are in pain and suffering from collective trauma and depression. Dear Russia, China and India: Their pain has no sound.
The question is, are they really siding with the regime? All grown-up adults in every government in this part of the world know that this regime’s lifespan will be short and that it is treacherous to associate with. It is like making friends with Hitler.
Today, the good news is that the regime continues to face increasing sanctions from the US. It is encouraging to see that the US continues to stand up for democracy in Myanmar.
On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed a compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which pledges to provide non-military assistance and to engage with Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and the PDFs.
The act is intended to support US policy towards Myanmar as the country struggles for democracy, human rights and justice.
It commits the US to helping return civilian governance to Myanmar and to pursuing accountability for human rights violations, as well as supporting anti-junta forces including EAOs and PDFs.
It is significant that the act mentions the parallel National Unity Government and its parliamentary body, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.
The bill also authorizes support for civil society, defectors, and political prisoners, promising funds during the fiscal years 2023 to 2027 to support the pro-democracy movement, civil society organizations, and the political entities and affiliates of EAOs. It also allocates funds to strengthen federalism, assist in ethnic reconciliation, protect political prisoners, encourage military defections, and investigate and document atrocities.
In addition, the bill commits the US to push for greater action at the UN against the military regime, and also calls for holding Russia and China accountable for their support of the junta.
US President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law in the near future, allowing the US, as it has in the past, to play a key role in assisting Myanmar to restore democracy and to counter the thuggish regime in Naypyitaw.
In any case, it is the people of Myanmar, not the US, who will continue to resist and fight the brutal regime. Nevertheless, a friend like the US can help: the resistance forces need a powerful friend of the sort that Min Aung Hlaing has. There is no doubt that the Myanmar people will see this development as good news.
The US and other Western friends who have been involved in Myanmar in the past should not abandon the oppressed Myanmar people; as longtime friends they should stand up and assist.
The thought that this regime might succeed is too dreadful to imagine; that would condemn the people of Myanmar to forever remain slaves of the murderous generals, who behave like fools, as rightly described by former political prisoner Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government.
It was a stupid coup: even senior diplomats from Myanmar’s closest neighbors all agree, and the military takeover was seen as a huge regional setback by several members of ASEAN, creating a wave of uncertainty, instability and division in Southeast Asia.
Min Aung Hlaing stole power from the people. But even with guns and fighter jets, his regime can’t control the people and the country.
It is certain that Min Aung Hlaing can’t win. He staged a stupid coup.