Myanmar junta’s governance without the consent of the people must end

Just over a year has passed since the Myanmar military overthrew the democratic government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup. The junta’s violent suppression and impoverishing of the people is unacceptable.

On Monday, exactly a year since the coup, the people of Myanmar staged a “silent strike” to demonstrate against the military by not showing up for work or leaving their homes. The military warned that participants would be punished, but a large number of people joined the strike and the streets were empty. This shows opposition to military rule is strongly rooted.

The international community has called on the junta to stop the violence, release detainees and restore the democratic system as soon as possible. The junta has not responded to any of these demands, and the situation continues to deteriorate.

In the past year, more than 1,500 people have been killed in the military crackdown, and about 12,000 people have been detained. Moreover, Suu Kyi was convicted in a trial highly tainted by politics, and her return to politics seems hopeless. Democratic elements have been forced to suspend their activities.

The junta has established a provisional government with the supreme commander of the military as prime minister and is working to make its rule an established fact. The negative impact of a government without the people is clearly seen in the economy.

Myanmar is expected to post a significant contraction in last year’s gross domestic product. GDP per capita is expected to fall to the lowest level among the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The slowdown in the economy will likely continue as exports fall due to stagnant business activity after the coup and the withdrawal of U.S. and European companies, which heavily weigh the human rights issue.

Myanmar’s development gains from democratization in the 2010s will be lost and poverty levels could revert to pre-democracy levels. The junta’s lack of ability to govern is obvious.

Another major problem is that the international community has not been able to come up with an effective response.

By allowing the current situation in Myanmar, China and Russia effectively are supporting the junta, which denies universal values such as the rule of law, freedom and democracy.

ASEAN, a bloc responsible for peace and stability in the region, is chaired this year by Cambodia, which has clearly shown its stance of supporting Myanmar’s junta. If ASEAN fails to demonstrate its influence over the Myanmar issue, it will only continue to lose clout.

Japan has stressed that it has a channel to the junta, but this has not produced any noticeable results.

With the prolonged turmoil, there are concerns about starvation and an increase in the number of displaced people in the region. In order to avert a humanitarian crisis, there are a number of steps Japan should take, such as taking the lead in boosting U.N. aid activities.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Feb. 2, 2022.