On Feb. 1, the Myanmar military arrested State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the civil government. Then, the military seized power after a decade of civil government. The people of Myanmar and the international community protest the military coup in Myanmar: the United States and United Nations Security Council called on the Myanmar military to restore democracy in Myanmar, China proposed a negotiation plan between the Myanmar military and civil government, and on Feb. 22, Reuters reported that “Indonesia is pushing Southeast Asian neighbours to agree on an action plan over Myanmar’s coup.”
There is no way back for the Myanmar military after this coup. Past military coups in Myanmar legally transferred power from the Government to the military with the constitution. The process of the current military coup process is arresting members of civil government and seizing power, committing high treason against the nation. If the military coup fails, the 2008 Constitution will be amended and all properties of the Myanmar military generals will be detained by the government. There is a lot at risk for the military — the strategy of the current military coup is a combination of the strategies of past military coups in Myanmar. In 1962, Gen. Nay Win led the military coup and controlled power for nearly 28 years. During his era, Myanmar was isolated and did not negotiate with any political associations. Gen. Saw Maung again seized power in 1988 and controlled the country until 2011. The current military coup leader, Gen.l Min Aung Hlaing, also followed the roadmap of his senior military coup leaders.
For instance, Min organized a State Administration Council, Regional Administration Councils and Township Administration Councils with mostly retired and in-service people from the military within 48 hours of the coup. They built a functional government mechanism for their own policy; Nay Win also made these actions in the 1962 military coup. To limit media, communication and information between Myanmar and the international community, the military junta blocked Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and the mobile data network was shut down. The military junta also suspended the law protecting the privacy and security of citizens. The junta can now arrest anyone without a warrant issued in accordance with existing law and detain them for more than 24 hours without permission from a court. These actions largely parallel the military coup in 1988.
As much as the military junta is circumscribing democracy, the Myanmar people also don’t want to negotiate with the military again. In 2010, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the icon of Myanmar democracy, and the military junta leader, U Than Shwe, negotiated the smooth democratic transition in Myanmar. The outcome of the negotiation was that the military still held a leading role in Myanmar politics and seized power again after a decade.
Most importantly, the Myanmar people must now fight for the full state of democracy in Myanmar, which not only includes the majority, but also minority groups in Myanmar. Because of the lack of information literacy, most independent media does not reach the people of Myanmar. Therefore, there is some misunderstanding among Myanmar people. The Myanmar military also spreads misinformation about federalism, ethnic armed groups, and the Rohingya genocide. Now, the Myanmar people must stand with ethnic groups and the Rohingya people against the military.
In the point of view of the Myanmar people, the current military coup is a non-legitimate government. Section 71 of the Myanmar Constitution states that the “President and Vice Presidents can only be removed with the permission of parliament.” Thus, arresting the president, Aung San Suu Kyi, and government members is high treason as stated by Section 121 of the Penal Code. The thnic army and Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or CRPH, are now negotiating for the federal army in Myanmar. The CRPH is now building a “functional government mechanism in Myanmar.” These actions reveal that the civil government will not negotiate with the military junta again.
A negotiation plan is the best way for the Myanmar military to reduce international pressure and internal protest against the military coup. The international community should take serious actions against the Myanmar military rather than encouraging a negotiation. The military coup in Myanmar may lead to the death of democracy — Myanmar needs the international community to act now to end the dictatorship in Myanmar.
HTET MYAT AUNG is an alumni of the Yale International Relations Leadership Institute (Class of 2020) and former delegate at the International Relations Symposium at Yale. For Myanmar democracy, Htet led many campings as the ambassador of the institute of economics and peace.