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In a distressing development in Southeast Asia, the military Junta in Myanmar seized power in a coup and ousted civilian, leader of the Government, Aung San Suu Kyi and declared a state of emergency in Myanmar for a year.

The military detained Aung San Suu Kyi along with other members of her party, declaring the National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s landslide victory at the November 2020 polls as null and void. This turn of event is very significant to India, given the fact that Myanmar is a neighbouring country with a lot of shared economic as well as strategic interests.

 Democracy versus Military Rule

The history of Burma or Myanmar is testimony to the constant tussle between pro-democratic forces and military rule. Democracy took shape in Burma after the Second World War from 1948 onwards. Subsequently, a coup in 1961 by General Ne Win, started the rule of army generals, setting up the Junta.

Despite NLD winning 81% of the seats in Parliament in the 1990 elections, Military government nullified the results and pro-democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi detained and put on house-arrest from 1989 to 2010.

Again the election of 2015 was a landslide win for NLD, taking 86% of the seats. However, Aung San Suu Kyi was prohibited from becoming the President, citing constitutional provisions. She was eventually made the State Counsellor of Myanmar, similar to a Prime Minister, a post newly created for her to assume charge.

Despite the election and a new constitution, Myanmar was only partial democracy. Armed forces were given a position in national politics, giving them a guaranteed 25 % of the 644 seats in the National Parliament, leaving only 476 seats to be contested in the elections. In the latest November 2020 elections, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won 396 seats of the 476 seats - a landslide victory for NLD.

On 1 February 2021, the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Armed Forces again nullified the results and deposed the elected government in a coup d’etat. The Tatmadaw, in a statement, said that the election result could not have given the country a stable democracy as it alleged the electoral rolls were faulty.  

Reason for Coup

The latest coup d’etat came at a time when the Myanmar Army Chief, Min Aung Hlaing, shadowed by attributions of human rights abused against the Rohingyas, is nearing his retirement and Aung San Suu Kyi publicly committing to affect amendments in the country’s constitution to progressively reduce the Army’s guaranteed seats in Parliament.

India’s Stake

It is quite clear that the government of India has been engaging with the military Junta, who it sees as the yielder of real power in Myanmar. Besides aiding in infrastructural development, particularly in building roads and bridges, India has been presenting itself as an alternative to the Chinese and ever selling Myanmar military hardware. Despite facing shortage of its own, India handed over INS Sindhuvir, a submarine, to the Myanmar Navy in 2020. In turn, the Junta had allowed India to conduct military operations against Indian insurgent groups, having camps in Myanmar.

Sunzu Bachaspatimayum

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