What is the future of Myanmar?


The ASEAN initiative to end the violence in Myanmar has not been widely expected. However, some hoped that the regional alliance will end the high-level violence with a framework for dialogue between the military junta and the democrats. 

It might create the possibility of resolving the crisis shortly. However, the ASEAN Alliance does not have the record of being proactive on political issues like the African Union and bringing about a result. Even then, various international organizations, including the United Nations, looked to the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta.

Leaders attending the ASEAN Summit have agreed to a five-point decision with which the leader of Myanmar's military coup has "agreed."

 The situation needs to be monitored for a few more days to comment on how effective it will eventually be. However, any failure of ASEAN's hopes could turn Myanmar into a proxy war between the two rival world powers. Some even think that the proxy war has begun.

ASEAN Summit and junta rule

A five-point agreement reached by ASEAN leaders in Jakarta on Saturday could provide a rough roadmap for a "regional process" for a lasting solution to Myanmar's crisis. In the coming weeks, ASEAN will have to work with foresight and take advantage of the momentum created to resolve the crisis. ASEAN leaders have exchanged views openly in two sessions of the summit.

Although there were two sessions, the main agenda was Myanmar. The first session lasted only 30 minutes, beginning with a report by ASEAN Chairperson Sultan Hassan al-Balkia on the ongoing efforts to strengthen the alliance, the impact of COVID-19. 

The session has also covered the progress of economic recovery plans. He emphasized the importance of ASEAN's external relations, saying that ASEAN must maintain balanced relations with China and the United States, two of the bloc's main dialogue partners.

Myanmar was discussed at the second session of the ASEAN Summit. After the President's introductory speech and a report by the ASEAN chief, Myanmar's coup leader Min Aung Hlaing briefed ASEAN leaders on the situation in his country for 30 min. 

He displayed multiple digital slides and detailed what his country's administrative council has done since taking power on February 1.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for ASEAN's special envoy to Myanmar to attend the conference. He called for the opening of emergency aid channels and the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar. The keynote speaker was Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup in Myanmar, to push for an end to the violence.

The ASEAN Summit was the first concerted international effort to emerge from Myanmar's crisis. Despite the pandemic, most of ASEAN's top leaders attended the conference in person.

 The organizers said the conference reflected deep concern over the situation in Myanmar and reflected ASEAN's strong commitment to helping Myanmar emerge from this precarious situation.

It was not normal for the top leader of Myanmar's military government to attend the ASEAN summit. Such situations are usually represented by lower-level officials or civilians in the country. 

Official video channel footage of the Indonesian presidential palace shows Min Aung Hlaing landing in Jakarta on a special flight from Myanmar capital, Nay Pyi Taw, to attend the conference.

Many ASEAN leaders held Min Aung Hlaing's promise to stop his security forces. A statement by Philippine Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin is significant. "Myanmar must avoid being divided into geographical, political, social and ethnic divisions," he said on Twitter. Myanmar must find peace again. "

ASEAN leaders have a policy of unanimous decision-making and noninterference in internal affairs. While this has hampered the resolution of controversial issues, the United Nations, China and the United States see ASEAN as the best body to deal directly with the junta's activities in Myanmar.

Leaders other than Widodo in ASEAN have openly spoken out about the need to end violence against protesters in Myanmar, release political prisoners, hold talks and find a way to reconcile. 

During the meeting, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramuddin called for the release of the detainees in his four-point proposal. He also called for an end to violence, humanitarian aid and talks. Other leaders echoed similar sentiments. No ASEAN leader has "hurt" Myanmar's senior general.

It will be seen in the coming days whether Min Aung Hlaing is keeping his word to stop the violence. He promised ASEAN leaders that the situation was improving. Independent sources put the death toll from recent protests in the country at 650, but the junta insisted that "only" 27 people had been killed. He alleged that "unknown forces" were responsible for the deaths.

ASEAN must rely on the senior general's personal beliefs, rather than overseeing officials and taking direct action to end the violence. The meeting was a good opportunity to observe his method and ‘body language as a way to build confidence. An official called the meeting ‘their face He described the reflection of the body as a gathering of a family environment.

What happens next?

An indicator of the ASEAN decision outcome will come from the Thai border. At the moment, the number of people fleeing Myanmar is minimal. Earlier, Thai authorities feared a massive influx of refugees. However, it did not happen. If the fighting intensifies in Myanmar, people will cross the border.

Additionally, if there is convincing evidence that Tatmadaw (the military) is talking about the junta, ASEAN will quickly explore areas to expand its contacts and cooperate. Humanitarian aid will be an area of concern, as Myanmar is now increasingly facing the COVID-19 crisis.

 If everything is done according to plan, it may be possible to quickly appoint ASEAN special envoys. If so, ASEAN will be able to send an evaluation team there to implement action plans for more humanitarian activities and other priorities shortly.

Even so, it is unlikely that the military junta will hand over power in the run-up to the 2020 elections in Myanmar. Given the current four-pronged military government, it is highly likely that the junta leaders will hand over power to another elected government shortly.

 Earlier, NLD leaders would be released through talks. The cases filed against them will be dropped and they will be allowed to take part in the elections and the army will refrain from any new arrests or violent operations.

If it does not, the fears raised by the Philippine Foreign Secretary on his Twitter account may come true. The separatist forces have intensified their attacks and sabotage. 

Attacks on Myanmar's security forces and military casualties have increased significantly. In Myanmar, which is divided into many ethnic groups, all but the main ethnic group, the Bamars ( about 56 per cent of the population), have long fought for independence or autonomy.

 In addition, in that fight, the Tatmadaw, or Burmese army, was the only force acceptable to the Bamars to maintain Burma's integrity. This time around 80 per cent of those leftists as opposed to a military coup. The allegations that the people of the country did not accept the last year's election led by the military junta. 

This is evident in the massive resistance movement and the bloodshed. More than 700 people have been killed in protests against the military junta's seizure of power. About three and a half thousand people are in jail. 

However, the movement is not going to be brought under control in any way. As no response was seen to the fulfilment of ASEAN promises, the protesters called for a new round of non-cooperation.

In addition to protesting against the military junta's rule, parallel elected representatives have already formed a government of national unity. 

This government has been formed mainly by the members of the deposed government. There was also a request from civil society to invite representatives of the ‘National Unity’ government to the Jakarta conference, But neither delegates nor observers were invited to the ASEAN summit.

No doubt, ASEAN leaders have realized that the credibility and effectiveness of the alliance are at stake. So they have made a concerted effort to establish a humanitarian break without further complicating the situation. 

Whether Min Aung Hlaing is effectively willing to listen to its neighbours is also important. If the infernal torture in Tatmadaw continues, the situation in Myanmar will only get worse.

The junta chief has probably tried reassuring ASEAN that new elections will be held and the country will return to civilian rule. The military has previously said the state of emergency could last for two years. Despite calls for Aung San Suu Kyi's release, no ASEAN member state has explicitly called for the November election results to be accepted.

If General Min Aung Hlaing wants to go down, ASEAN will be there to provide a ladder, although there is no final indication yet.

 If break-in violence could be achieved to allow humanitarian supplies, that would be some temporary progress. One of the proposals on the agenda of the meeting is the appointment of a special envoy. If these ‘comparatively modest’ goals can be realized, it will be at least a start.

Fear of outside interference

Many regional analysts and observers fear that the failure of ASEAN could create opportunities for outside powers to intervene. It will also tarnish the image of this alliance. A more immediate concern, however, is a humanitarian emergency that will create a "refugee wave" and affect the region, especially the COVID-19 pandemic in neighbouring Thailand.

ASEAN has a reputation for putting stability and economic development above political rights. That would mean a worrying situation in the region, such as Syria. 

The question of the international recognition of the National Unity Government or NUG will become important in terms of how the policy can move forward faced with unchanging stability in Myanmar. If a parallel government can expand its support among anti-junta forces and emerge as an authority, then Western democracy can recognize it.

Regional foreign ministers must maintain channels of communication with the NUG. But they will continue to deal with the ruling de facto party and refrain from taking steps to isolate the junta. The longer the crisis lasts, the more likely it is that force will be one of the options on the table.

It could come in the form of U.S. missile strikes on military targets. Probably a factor as to why they are doing so poorly. Many fear a different plan for the crisis in Washington, except new sanctions on coup plotters.

 Moreover, it is difficult to imagine whether the United States will be able to bring its ‘quad’ allies such as India and Japan on board.

ASEAN will oppose external military intervention and it will probably accelerate Myanmar's move toward a failed state. Myanmar's military has historically been seen uniting the nation through seven decades of ethnic armed resistance and constant civil war. However, that has now clearly reached the stage of rejection.

Credible observations show that there is widespread support for the current anti-military movement among Myanmar's population. The new polarization has brought together ethnic armed groups aimed at establishing a federal army and a federal democratic system.

However, despite the greater fighting power and technological capabilities of the resistance, the army is less likely to be defeated. 

The NUG wants to gradually create pressure so that the junta-led crackdown breaks down, police discipline is broken, the exit from the security forces is accelerated and, finally, the junta collapses.

A military victory at NUG by federal forces is a long-term issue by any measure. Tatmadaw has historically never controlled all of Myanmar, and the ethnic armed groups that are now united have proved in the past that they can fight the stalemate. However, the civil war that Myanmar has experienced since independence is now taking on a new form, which is deadly, unstable and damaging to both sides.

Will be the field of proxy war?

Another significant issue is that Myanmar has become a proxy war field between the global superpowers. The two main parties in this proxy war are China and the United States. China is largely single-handedly supporting the military junta in Myanmar. 

As a result, protesters have Chinese investment establishments in Myanmar have been by protesters. There is no reason to think that China will want an easy victory for the Western-backed democratic movement. Because China's economic and strategic interests are much wider in Myanmar. 

India, another neighbour of Myanmar, has supported the ASEAN initiative but has not yet supported the anti-junta democratic movement. Alternatively, the United States does not want to legitimize the current junta rule in Myanmar. 

The alliance that the National Unity Government has formed with the separatist parties may turn from non-violent to violent in the future if the ASEAN decision is not implemented.

 In that case, Myanmar will become a testing ground for the strength of the global Cold War. This situation cannot be explained in any way by the history of the past. Therefore, the situation in Myanmar is being compared with the situation in Syria. That being said, winning of the junta could be the beginning of a North Korean era in the country. Then, there will be no right to human expression or free thought.

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