Burma’s Military in a Political Hole.
Photo by Michael Pfister on Unsplash
By Rene Wadlow.
“An error is not a mistake unless you refuse to correct it”
John F. Kennedy
On Wednesday 31 March 2021, the United Nations Security Council met in a closed door session to continue its consideration of the violence in Myanmar. The participants heard a video message from the U.N.’s envoy to Myanmar who called on the Tatmadaw (the Myanmar Military Forces) to navigate an orderly and peaceful way out of the situation in which some 520 people have been killed by the military and some 2,800 people detained. How many are still detained is not fully known. Reporting from the area is difficult and uneven.
The Security Council repeated its earlier 10 March resolution against violence and calling for support for a democratic transition within the country. China is playing the key role within the Security Council but also in contacts with the military-led government which calls itself the State Administrative Council (SAC). China has a 2,227 kilometer border with Burma, and people move across this border with relative ease. Moreover, there are a good number of Chinese factories in Burma, companies that are closely related to Chinese-government owned conglomerates. There are also a good number of ethnic Chinese living in Burmese cities and larger towns, owning hotels, restaurants and shops. There have already been fires set in some of these Chinese-owned factories, but no group has taken responsibility for setting the fires. The fires are, nevertheless, an indication of growing anti-Chinese sentiment.
Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)
It has been said that the first rule when you find yourself in a political hole is to stop digging. Unfortunately, the military leadership since its 1 February coup has done all it could to make matters worse. As a result, there has grown among many different groups of the society a strong Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) which has shown tactical innovation and creativity. Women have been on the front lines of these non-violent protests to military rule. A raised three-finger salute, drawn from the Hunger Games has become the outward sign of opposition.
The ethnic minorities which have played a large, if often violent role in Burmese politics since independence in 1947 – the Kachin, Karen, Shan, Mon, Karenni, Ta’ang – are divided in their response to the new military-led government. Some, such as Karen and Kachin rebels have launched attacks against the military. Others are lying in wait to see what is going to happen. For a number of reasons, all the ethnic minorities are divided into factions, and there is rarely a collective response. A good number of the minority civilians have displaced themselves, seeking shelter along the borders.
The Situation in Myanmar.
An unintended consequence of the 1 February coup and the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy leaders has been to open the door to a younger generation of leadership, less linked to military families. While this younger generation is not contesting the leadership of the older generation, it is inevitable that a generation of people now in their 50s will come to the fore such as the Myanmar Ambassador to the U.N. in New York Kyaw Moe Tun who broke with the military in a dramatic presentation at a first 26 February Security Council discussion of the situation in Myanmar.
There are many aspects to the fast-moving situation in Myanmar. They merit watching closely.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.