Just waking up at seven o’clock in the morning, Win found that his mobile phone could not make calls or access the Internet. He went downstairs to find a mobile phone shop for repairs. Only then did he know that all mobile phone communications across the country were cut off at this time. Win went home and turned on the TV. Almost all the channels were black, and even the radio was silent. It was not until that night that she was able to make the first call to report her safety to her home.
This day is February 1, 2020. At 3 o’clock in the morning of the same day, Myanmar military personnel entered the state-run Myanmar Radio and Television Station with weapons and demanded that the TV broadcast be shut down.
Early in the morning, Myanmar’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (hereinafter referred to as “NLD”) spokesman Miao Niu, stated that state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior dignitaries of the NLD were detained by the military.
In the morning, the military issued a statement announcing that it would take over the power and stated that it would impose a one-year state of emergency on the country in accordance with Article 417 of the Constitution. In the afternoon, the military issued a statement saying that after the state of emergency is over, national elections will be held again, and state power will be transferred to the new ruling party; during the state of emergency, it plans to reform the Federal Election Commission and reopen it. Check the “fraud” in the general election last November.
On that night, the military dismissed the original NLD cabinet, formed a new cabinet and appointed a total of 11 new ministers. In the new cabinet list, there are many retired military officers on the list.
“Military changes” without bloodshed
Win, who is already the fourth generation of overseas Chinese, lives in Yangon and is an accountant. He needs to correspond to government departments daily to assist foreigners who come to Myanmar to invest in taxation, auditing, and various permits. “After the’coup d’état occurred on February 1, many main roads in Yangon were blocked and guarded by the army, especially the city hall area, which was even more heavily guarded.” Win told reporters from Nanfeng Chuang that he was on the door on February 2. At that time, the number of soldiers on the streets of Yangon has decreased, but at the same time the traffic volume on the streets has been significantly reduced. “Many company employees stopped going to work.”
Roger, another overseas Chinese who works as a sales manager in Yangon, is 30 years old this year. He said that as early as a few days before February 1, he witnessed military armored vehicles and military personnel entering Yangon’s main road, and police vehicles were also arranged outside the homes of government units and officials. “On the morning of February 1, except for the Myanmar military TV station, my TV at home could not receive other channels.”
After the “military change” in Naypyidaw, the capital city, Yangon, Mandalay and other cities have seen people rush to buy rice, oil and other daily necessities, and there are long queues in front of bank ATMs.
“Everyone knows that the situation is turbulent, so they will store a lot of food at home, and the flow of people in the supermarket has increased a lot, which is equivalent to when the epidemic broke out.” Win said that his friends are doctors, civil servants and business owners. Everyone is a supporter of the Democratic League.
Despite the sudden changes in the political arena, the reporter from Win Xiangnanfeng Chuang said that he observed that the situation in Yangon was relatively peaceful, and he did not encounter serious protests on the street. He only saw gongs and drums beating downstairs in his home. Of non-violent demonstrations gathered. “There has been no bloodshed. The supporters of the NLD believe that the military will take over the government on the grounds of managing the turmoil of the NLD. If everyone does not cause trouble,’the coup will not proceed further.’
But on the Internet, the Burmese expressed their feelings for the NLD government more directly. On social platforms such as Facebook, many users from Myanmar replaced their avatars with red background pictures symbolizing the Democratic League. Many netizens even included Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait and quotations in support of this former victim. A national icon who has been imprisoned for more than 20 years and is now detained.
General elections with disparity in results
In the controversial election of the Union of Myanmar Parliament in November last year, the Democratic League led by Aung San Suu Kyi won 396 of the 476 seats actually elected, accounting for about 83.19% of all seats actually elected, 6 more than the 2015 general election. The number of seats far exceeds the 322 seats required to form a new government; while the largest opposition party considered as a representative of the military, the Federal Consolidation and Development Party (hereinafter referred to as the “Gongfa Party”), only won 33 seats, compared to 2015. With 42 seats obtained, the right to speak has been further reduced.
In the past five years in power, the China Democratic League has shown mediocre performance on major issues such as economic development, national reconciliation, and constitutional amendment. This has also led to the fact that when it participated in the 2020 general election, its campaign posture was not as high as the previous one.
Prior to the 2015 general election, the NLD seized state power for the first time from the Gongfa Party through democratic procedures. In the past five years in power, the China Democratic League has shown mediocre performance on major issues such as economic development, national reconciliation, and constitutional amendment. This has also led to the fact that when it participated in the 2020 general election, its campaign posture was not as high as the previous one.
When the China Democratic League participated in the election in 2015, it promised to advance the peace process with the “Mindiwu” (local armed forces of ethnic minorities), set the goal of transforming the national system into federalization, and gave ethnic minorities more autonomy in the future. There is great hope, but this progress is still relatively limited.
Before the most recent general election, Aung San Suu Kyi opposed the frequent agitation behavior of party leaders to participate in election politics. In a speech on Facebook, he said that no matter what the outcome of the general election, supporters of the Democratic League should calmly accept it. For the desired result, don’t anger other people.
Such soothing words on the eve of the general election are unnecessary for the Democratic League, which was so powerful in the 2015 election. From this perspective, the NLD’s forecast for the 2020 general election is not as confident as the previous one.
On the eve of the November 2020 general election, due to the lack of outstanding performance during the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal aura that has been eclipsed internationally due to the Rohingya issue, the military’s confidence in the election is even higher. There were even rumors that the military would recommend Min Anglai as president.
In recent years, wars have continued in many provinces, including Rakhine State and Kachin State. In the war zone, the military sent food and water and other necessities to the trapped people, which won them a lot of favor.
In these areas, the support rate of the Myanmar military and the Gongfa Party continues to rise. It is expected that just before the voting on November 7, 2020, the Election Commission cancelled the voting rights of more than 1.5 million voters in Rakhine State and Mon State on the grounds that ethnic conflicts were taking place. Despite the protests, the Election Committee later resumed voting in some electoral districts, but after the election results with such a disparity, this procedural loophole has naturally become the military’s most powerful weapon to attack the legitimacy of the general election.
Although after the 2015 election, demonstrations by military supporters took place in cities such as Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, and Mandalay, due to the international outlook, the military conformed to public opinion and believed that the NLD’s victory would be even more important. Much relied on Aung San Suu Kyi’s strong personal appeal, which recognized the election results and continued the process of democratization in Myanmar since 2010.
At that time, there were voices within the Burmese military who believed that the NLD’s governance performance would be difficult to achieve on the basis of the military’s firm control over the country’s internal affairs departments. After Aung San Suu Kyi’s aura fades, the popular support for the Democratic League will not continue to remain high. The “wishful calculation” played by the Myanmar military is based on the 25% of the established seats in the hand, taking advantage of the decline in the support rate of the Democratic League, and intends to unite the Gongfa Party and ethnic minority parties in Shan State, Rakhine State and other places. Take control of the regime again.
For today’s Myanmar military and the Gongfa Party, the disastrous defeat in the 2020 general election is unacceptable. The more critical reason may be that Min Aung Lai, who was blocked in the 2015 general election, will not wait for the next five years and sit back and watch. The influence of the NLD government continues to grow, thereby further eroding the detached position of the military group in national rule and the special interests within the system.
Just after the defeat of the Gongfa Party in the last general election, in January 2016, the Myanmar military announced that Min Aung Lai’s retirement period was extended by 5 years. So far, Min Anglai, known for his tough style, has served in the military for over four years. The commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces, who was supposed to reach the retirement age of 65 in July of this year, has been given at least one year of actual power after Myanmar entered a “state of emergency.”
After entering the first decade of the 21st century, Myanmar began to transform from a military government to a democratic society. The Myanmar military has always dominated the progress of the so-called “democratic road map.” Especially in 2019, the military’s concession of transferring the General Affairs Administration to the NLD government was regarded as an achievement of the NLD in democratization by Myanmar and abroad.
Min Anglai, known for his tough style, has served in the military for over four years. The commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces, who was supposed to reach the retirement age of 65 in July of this year, has been given at least one year of actual power after Myanmar entered a “state of emergency.”
And just after the Gongfa Party defeated again in the 2020 general election, the “Lianzhuang” Democratic League proposed to jointly govern with ethnic minority political parties, but did not actively respond to the military and the Gongfa Party who had repeatedly accused of “fraud” in the election.
After the Naypyidaw Incident, has the road to the development of democracy in Myanmar come to an end? Regarding the political turmoil caused by the differences in the results of the general election, from the public statement, the Myanmar military does not seem to be like what Western countries believe, and regards it as a coup that violated the 2008 constitution.
Three possibilities in the future
Wei Baoyi, an assistant researcher at the China-ASEAN Institute of Guangxi University, believes that Myanmar’s current constitution was promoted by the military with the willingness to achieve national reconciliation and advance the democratic process. At the moment, maintaining the current constitution is not only in line with the original intention of the military government, but also allows the military with a stable power position to continue to play a legal role in the political arena, “this is in the interests of the military.”
Wei Baoyi believes that the current Myanmar Constitution has given the military a special status, and the military’s position on the political stage of Myanmar is the result of many years of operations. “This is a product of the game and compromise between the various parties in Myanmar, and it is also a product of a specific stage in the development of Myanmar. The NLD is not concerned about the military and the Gongfa Party’s doubts about the general election, which will inevitably cause the military to change after the release of power. Strong vigilance.”
It can be said that in Myanmar, the military government system is far from complete. At least in the short term, the military will still play a vital role in Myanmar’s politics. Wang Zichang Xiangnan Fengchuang, a professor at Jinan University’s School of International Relations, predicts that if the military transfers state power to the party that won the re-election a year later, as announced, Myanmar’s domestic politics is expected to return to emergency. The normal state before the state. “The Myanmar military will also continue to occupy an important position in Myanmar politics. Not only will it still occupy 25% of the seats in the two houses of the People’s House and the National House, but it will also control the commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the border. Key positions such as the Minister of Affairs.”
“If a large-scale violent conflict occurs during the state of emergency, which endangers the survival of the federation, then it may turn the state of emergency into the normal state of Myanmar politics and return it to the state of the military government for a long time.”
More subtle is that the timing of the military’s hands-on is chosen at the time when Myanmar’s new parliament is about to be held. In this regard, Wei Baoyi believes that this is also a consideration of the military’s legitimacy. “Once the parliament is successfully convened, it is equivalent to the military’s approval of the legitimacy and legitimacy of the results of the general election. At this time, the implementation of a state of emergency is declared, and the justification is lost.
After the military takes over the state power, where will it lead Myanmar’s political transformation process? In Wang Zichang’s view, it is unlikely that the military will tighten the regime again for a long time and stop promoting democratization. “The interests of the military are not affected by votes and electoral seats. The military’s takeover of state power does not mean that the democratization process is completely regressed. From the current point of view, Myanmar’s political operation is still within the framework of the existing constitution. As for the implementation of emergency There are still many uncertainties about what the state will be after one year.
Yang Danzhi, an expert on international issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Asia-Pacific and Global Strategies Institute, holds a similar position: “The national power of Myanmar now belongs to the commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces. During the one-year state of military control, there are various possibilities for power games, depending on The latest developments in Myanmar’s domestic politics and the degree of pressure from the international community.”
Yang Danzhi analyzed to the south wind window that if the international community exerts enough pressure through sanctions and other measures, the Myanmar military will make some compromises. “One possibility is that the military will continue to implement strict military control a year later; or a new democratically elected government will come to power; or the NLD and the military will reach a compromise and the coalition government will come to power. There are three possibilities.”
“The international pressure faced by the Myanmar military government may not be as great as imagined. As one of Myanmar’s most important sources of investment and trading partners, ASEAN adheres to the principle of non-interference in its internal affairs. It is impossible for Myanmar to enter into a state of emergency. Impose sanctions.”
“It is almost impossible for Myanmar to end the state of emergency early. From a historical point of view, the Myanmar military will not succumb to international pressure. It has always followed its own democratic road map. I believe that the Myanmar military will not because of this this time. The possible sanctions of Western countries can easily change their positions.” Wang Zichang said, “The international pressure on Myanmar’s military government may not be as great as imagined. As one of Myanmar’s most important sources of investment and trading partners, ASEAN pursues The principle of non-interference in internal affairs, it is impossible to impose sanctions on Myanmar because of the state of emergency.”
After the military regime came to power in 1988, Myanmar suffered severe sanctions from the international community led by the United States, involving economic, military and diplomatic fields. After the long-term sanctions have not reached the expected goals, countries such as Europe and the United States have gradually implemented the policy of “combining sanctions and engagement” on Myanmar starting in 2009.
But at home, Myanmar is facing tremendous socio-economic pressures, which is an indisputable fact. Foreign investment in Myanmar has been declining after reaching its peak in fiscal 2016. The GDP growth rate also fell to 5.9% in 2016 after reaching 8.9% in 2013, and has fluctuated around 6% every year thereafter. Such data is acceptable for a developing country with underdeveloped infrastructure, but the sudden new crown epidemic has once again dealt a heavy blow to Myanmar’s economy.
In Myanmar, there are currently about 140,000 confirmed cases of the new crown virus, and hundreds of new confirmed cases are added every day. Prior to this, the NLD government did not even have enough funds to import vaccines, and it needed to openly collect donations from the private sector. The military’s takeover of state power may also have a certain impact on the confidence of domestic and foreign investors. Win said that as a relatively underdeveloped country, Myanmar’s economy has grown to a certain extent in recent years, largely relying on the introduction of foreign capital. “We had finally come to the turning point of the epidemic, and felt that there would be a resumption and start-up of foreign-funded projects in the coming year. Many foreign investors will not come here in the short term after such a disturbance.”
On February 1st, in response to the military change, U Dan Min, an adviser to the former President of Myanmar U Thein Sein, commented on social media: “I have an ominous premonition that no one can really control what happens next. What you need to know is, Myanmar is a country full of armed conflicts, ethnic and religious conflicts, and millions of people can barely feed themselves.”
Yang Danzhi believes that the domestic political game has caused shocks and changes, which are disastrous for the development of Myanmar’s social undertakings and the people. After the parties have played the game, reaching a reconciliation under the constitution and legal framework, and continuing the process of national modernization, is the future of this seriously backward country.