The Financial Express

Myanmar junta's costly mistake

Myanmar junta's costly mistake

After over a week of wait filled with suspense and premonitions, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) at last focused on the fraught issue of the recent Myanmar military coup. The onus lay on the two superpowers --- China and Russia. In a reaction to the February 1 coup, the UNSC last Thursday called for the release of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her other associates now under military detention. The Security Council voiced concern over the state of emergency declared in the country. However, it has yet to condemn the coup.

Earlier, the new military rulers declared the country's 2020 general election tainted with irregularities. Although the voters' turnout was massive and spontaneous with Suu Kyi's party winning a landslide, the state power-obsessed army honchos cancelled the poll results. The often-faltering transition to democracy which started with the earlier electoral victory of SuuKyi's party NLD in 2015 has been made to screech to a halt. The allegations of election irregularities are called mere ruse by observers.

Developments taking place in the post-coup Myanmar portend bad times for the new junta. In the last eight days, they must have realised that this time the military takeover may not prove a cakewalk like those in the past. It's quite clear that the global politics and diplomatic tilts have undergone many changes in the last one decade. Domestically, the junta has started facing the early signs of countrywide public protests against the takeover and the detainments of Suu Kyi and the other leaders. The protests are feared to snowball and spread to all big and small cities. Sensing the brewing global condemnations including the preparations of regional blocs like ASEAN to put pressure on Myanmar to restore 'democracy', the country has decided to go soft on its measures against pro-NLD demonstrations. The present situation in Myanmar is outright fraught. Its overtures to Bangladesh explaining the reasons for the takeover, expressing willingness to take the Rohingyas back home and assuring safety to the Rohingyas left back in the country could be defined as knee-jerk reactions. On several occasions, its civilian emissaries have assured Bangladesh they will start soon the process of Rohingya repatriation. All this has proved illusory.

Nobody knows how long the latest Myanmar impasse, vis-à-vis the Rohingya repatriation, will continue. The junta had been using Suu Kyi as the 'face of democracy', but actually as a puppet, in order to cleanse the country's northern province of Rakhine of the Rohingyas. The military couldn't succeed much in its cold-blooded design, except throwing Bangladesh into an abyss of evidently insurmountable crises. Though welcomed with stretched-out arms, the 1 million Rohingya refugees, including the 700,000 new arrivals in August 2017, are set to emerge finally as an albatross. 

Traditionally, the two UNSC members, China and Russia, have long been shielding Myanmar from any significant action taken by the UN. China has a big economic interest in Myanmar. In spite of being an aggrieved party, Bangladesh has been sucked into the regional imbroglio just by default, or for circumstances beyond its control. The new Myanmar junta must be aware of the fresh geo-political developments in the world. Prominent of them are the signs of US President Joe Biden's pragmatic attitude towards China. In place of Donald Trump's all-round hostilities towards China, Biden's accommodating stance is expected to rub the bruises of mistrust with a balm of mutual trust. It may lead to a considerable weakening of Myanmar's ties with China. It's not unlikely to see Myanmar becoming an isolated country in the global community. Apart from its military calling the shots from behind in all state affairs, the ruthless Rohingya persecution leading to the ethnic minorities taking shelter in Bangladesh has emerged as a dominant factor in the Southeast Asian nation's becoming a 'black sheep' in the near future.   

During the last one-and-half centuries, Bengalees from both parts of Bengal have had warm ties with the Burmese, or 'Bormis', as the Myanmar people were called then. Besides business ties, many adventurous youths from this part of the British India would set out for the land for fortune-hunting. All of them eventually came back. But things later turned grim. Myanmar's persecution of its ethnic Rohingyas minority, Mulims in particular, and their exodus to Bangladesh, in the early 1990s drove a wedge between the two neighbouring countries --- Bangladesh and Myanmar. A section of xenophobic Buddhist monks allegedly with nod from the dictatorial military rulers instigated the sparks of an irrational hatred for the Muslim Rohingyas.

The irony is, despite SuuKyi's proverbial humanism, she looked the other way as the Rohingyas were subject to all kinds of atrocities unleashed by the military rulers and their armed lackeys after her release from house arrest in 2010 leading up to 2017.  It demonstrates a self-contradictory disposition of Suu Kyi.

It would be a wishful thinking if some over-optimists begin fancying the new faces of the Myanmar junta leaving the scenario anytime soon. This time, they appear to have barged on the country's complicated political landscape with a long-term objective: carving out a place in the Southeast Asian politics. However, there are other countries having the same ambition. The junta has been apparently confident that the backing of China and Russia, along with that of some regional powers, is set to remain unwavering in its march. It is amazing to observe that the junta is least aware of the developments the southern Asia's politico-economic spheres are set to experience.

Myanmar may not become a pariah state. But, according to South and Southeast Asian affairs experts, what will finally take it to its comeuppance is the Achilles heel of Rohingya atrocities it has perpetrated during the last decades.It has been there in the form of brutal persecution of its Rohingya minority citizens.


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