International Community must Urge Myanmar to Find Peaceful Solution

REUTERS/Ann Wang/File Photo
Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attends Invest Myanmar in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, January 28, 2019.

It can be said that Myanmar’s democracy, which it has built up over the past 10 years, has been trampled down and a military regime effectively restored. Japan, the United States and European nations must work together to strengthen efforts to urge Myanmar to bring the situation under control.

Myanmar’s military has declared a state of emergency, and the supreme commander has announced that the military has taken full control of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the government, was detained and placed under house arrest.

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory in the general election in November last year. The coup was planned to take place on the day when parliament was to be convened. This outrageous act that disregards the will of the people can never be accepted.

Although the military insists there was fraud in the general election and justifies the declaration of a state of emergency based on the Constitution, these actions are unreasonable. The general election was held with the participation of international observers, and electoral administration authorities also concluded that it was carried out fairly.

Even under civilian rule, the military has maintained a strong political influence. The current Constitution, which was enacted in 2008 under the military regime, guarantees privileged positions for the military by allocating it a quarter of the seats in parliament and making it difficult to revise the Constitution against the will of the military, among other measures.

Despite this, why did the military go so far as to stage a coup?

It is widely believed that there was a heightened sense of desperation over the decline in the military’s control following the crushing defeat of a military-affiliated political party in the general election, which demonstrated the public’s wariness of military rule. Frustration over the NLD’s move to revise the Constitution to eliminate the military’s influence is also considered to be another major factor.

Suu Kyi, who had led the pro-democracy movement under the past military regime, has been in charge of national affairs for the last five years. In her first term, she was highly considerate of the military, drawing international criticism over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, but she has remained highly popular in the country.

Suu Kyi issued a statement urging people to respond and actively protest against the coup, while the military has tightened control through such measures as deploying troops and closing roads in the capital. It was also announced that key Cabinet members would be replaced by those from the military. If this situation continues, the road to democratization will be cut off.

In Southeast Asia, a military-led government continues to rule Thailand, deepening ties with China. On the Myanmar issue, China is also likely to try to protect its military government from pressure from the international community under the pretext of “noninterference in internal affairs.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has urged Myanmar’s military to cede power and warned of reimposing economic sanctions. Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi expressed grave concern and called for an “early restoration of a democratic political system.”

Japan should keep in step with the United States and Europe to urge Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the situation.