The United States under Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions on Myanmar after the latest coup by the Military.
The sanctions on Myanmar had only recently been lifted, as the country was beginning to emerge from the decades-long military rule.
The arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Military is on account of the latter accusing the party of fraud in the landslide election win.
Myanmar (Formerly known as Burma) has been in political turmoil and instability since 1948. It declared independence from Britain, and the Military had then, between 1958 and 1960, formed a temporary government at the behest of U Nu, who was the democratically elected prime minister.
This was a step taken by the then Prime Minister to ease the situation and the political infighting within the country. While civilian governance was restored in 1960, the Military in less than two years resorted to a coup. It seized power under Ne Win’s leadership (Burmese politician and military commander) that lasted for 26 years.
However, in 1988, protests broke out in the country on account of economic mismanagement. The country was seized by the State Law and Restoration Council, formed by top leaders from the Military.
This is the time when Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, who is regarded as the country’s modern founder, started her journey as a pro-democracy activist.
Suu Kyi party won with a landslide victory in the 1990 free elections; however, the Military refused to concede her victory and put her under house arrest.
From hereon, the Military ruled the country until 2011, 22 years, although in 2008 Constitution of Myanmar was drafted.
Between 2011 – 2015, elections were held, and the country entered a tentative democratic transition. Suu Kyi’s party again came up on top. Still, the Military did not give complete control and retained substantial power, including the right to appoint ¼th of the parliament members.
The latest coup is the Military’s dispute and allegations on the National League for Democracy on fraud charges in the general elections held on 8 November 2020.
The world waking up to yet another coup in Myanmar
The UN, the UK, and the EU have strongly condemned the recent coup by the Military, with the US and Joe Biden making a statement that “the United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”
He further threatened to reimpose the sanctions, which had only been recently lifted; however, it doesn’t look that the Military will be giving up soon.
Meanwhile, India has stated that it is noting the developments with “deep concern.”
Ironically, in 2017, the chief of Myanmar’s armed forces had visited India and visited several military and non – military sites across the country.
China has also issued a statement saying it hopes that both sides would “uphold stability and resolve differences” under Myanmar’s’ constitution.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s call to Myanmar’s people
Suu Kyi’s party has asked the people of Myanmar to “not accept” the coup by the Military.
In her Facebook post, she has clearly and urgently called out to people, 55 million population, to stand up against the military rule.
Even as Suu Kyi has been arrested and put in detention, this after she has already spent 15 years in detention from 1989 – 2010.
The Military has been ruling Myanmar for decades now, and just when the people of Myanmar were breaking free and beginning to taste and glimpse freedom, it has been put back into the darkness of decades.
The World waiting to see How Joe Biden would answer the first test in Asia
While Biden has issued a statement and given a strong indication of where the US and the Biden administration stand on the military coup, the issue in its entirety is also being looked at as the “first foreign policy test.”
Biden administration will also be looking to as part of US strategy to counter China’s rise, and one way of doing that would be to rally strongly for democracies in Asia.
The Military, Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing, who is also close to his retirement age, has already been accused of genocide due to the brutal crackdown against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Although he has received support from China, who called the two countries “brothers” during a meeting last month and Beijing further praised the Military for its “national revitalization.”
One of the US’s fundamental strategies to counter the rise of China’s single-party rule is to support a “free and open” eastern region.
It will be a challenge for Biden to respond in a manner that will hit the military general’s but keeping in mind the general population, which already had suffered during the 1990’s sanctions.
The White House has already declared that it would take action against the army if it does not cede, but is likely to come under more pressure to act.
What About the rest of the world?
India, although it has expressed its concerns, it has carefully tried to slide away from making any more comments on the issue.
Although it supports military rule, China is still careful not to alienate Suu Kyi’s supporters.
For China, Burmese politics is nothing new, and it has been burned before, hence this time around, it prefers to wait and watch the highly volatile and unpredictable Burmese politics.
Asian nations will also prefer to wait and watch and hedge their bets. The Covid – 19 pandemics have hit each country hard, and hence the efforts would be more self-focused despite the issues being faced by Myanmar. Therefore the reactions of the countries in the Asian region were muted restrained.
Myanmar has also had recent investments from Japan and several other nations as an alternative to a manufacturing base to Thailand.
Hence, while the world will be looking to see how the US and administration under Joe Biden respond and what steps they might take, many countries in Asia, including China, would somewhat be restricted in their approach towards the latest military coup in Myanmar.