- Myanmar’s military declared a one-year state of emergency on Monday (Feb 1) and appointed Myint Swe as acting president, after arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint along with other senior officials. Immediately after he was named president, Myint Swe handed power to the country’s top military commander, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. The military said it would hold a “free and fair general election” after the emergency is over.
Why this happened?
- The bone of contention is the alleged fraud during the elections on November 8 last year in which the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) scored a landslide victory, and the military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) was humbled. The NLD won 396 of the 476 elected seats in the two Houses of parliament while the USDP won just 33 seats. As many as 25 per cent of the seats (166) are reserved for the military in both Houses.
- The military alleged discrepancies such as duplicated names on voting lists in scores of districts and was unhappy with the election commission’s response to its complaints.
- The military did not say if irregularities were substantial enough to have changed the election outcome. Its grievance was similar to that of the (USDP), the former ruling party created by the military before it officially ceded power in 2011. The USDP, widely seen as a military proxy.
How genuine is this concern?
- Of the more than 90 parties that contested the vote, at least 17 have complained of mostly minor irregularities and all, except the USDP, are smaller parties. Election observers have said the voting was without major irregularities. The election commission on said that there were no errors on a scale that could mean fraud or the election being discredited.
What does the country’s Constitution say?
- The announcement on military owned Myawaddy TV cited Article 417 of the country’s constitution, which allows the military to take over in times of emergency. According to this TV channel, the coronavirus crisis and the government’s failure to postpone November elections were reasons for the emergency.’
- The military-drafted the constitution in 2008 and retains power under the charter at the expense of democratic, civilian rule.
- Military has enshrined a permanent role for itself in the political system Known as the Tatmadaw, it gets an unelected quota of 25 per cent of parliamentary seats and it controls the defence, interior and borders ministries, ensuring an important stake in politics.
History of Politics in Myanmar:
- Myanmar got its independence in 1948. After the efforts of Aung San, Panglong agreement was signed(To settle disputes between multiple ethnic group). There was domination of Bamar ethnic group (Buddhist follower) with 68 % of total population where as other ethnic groups distributed mainly within the Shan, Kayin, Kayar, and Chin state practiced their own versions of Animism along with people of the Islamic faith lived alongside the Buddhists in the Arakan (now Rakhine) This agreement was not able to pacify diverse ethnic group present in Myanmar which further lead to instability and chaos in Myanmar’s political system.
- By taking advantage of this situation, Military suspended Democracy in 1962. From 1962 to 1988, the country was ruled by the Burma Socialist Programme Party as a one-party state. The government was deposed following the 1988 Uprising but was replaced by a military junta.
- 1988: Pro-democracy protests in August are met with a brutal military crackdown and as many as 5,000 people are killed, according to civil society groups. In September, Aung San Suu Kyi founds the National League for Democracy (NLD).
- 1990: Under international pressure the military calls an election, which the NLD wins by a landslide. The military refuses to recognise the results or hand over power and Aung San Suu Kyi is arrested and placed in house arrest.
- 1995: In July, Aung San Suu Kyi released from house arrest.
- 2006: The military announces it has moved the capital to Naypyidaw, a new city it had built in secret midway between Yangon and Mandalay.
- 2010 elections: An election was held in 2010, with 40 parties approved to contest the elections by the Electoral Commission. The National League for Democracy, which overwhelmingly won the previous 1990 elections but were never allowed to take power, decided not to participate. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party declared victory, winning 259 of the 330 contested seats.
- 2015 elections: Myanmar general elections were held on 8 November 2015. These were the first openly contested elections held in Myanmar since 1990. The results gave the National League for Democracy an absolute majority of seats in both chambers of the national parliament, enough to ensure that its candidate would become president, while NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from the presidency.
Importance of Myanmar to India:
- India and Myanmar share a long land border of over 1600 km and a maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. A large population of Indian origin (according to some estimates about 2.5 million) lives in Myanmar. India and Myanmar signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1951. The visit of the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 laid the foundations for a stronger relationship between India and Myanmar.
- Myanmar is an important member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), a multilateral subregional organization that is committed to fostering bilateral or regional cooperation among Bay of Bengal countries
- Myanmar is geopolitically significant to India as it stands at the center of the India-Southeast Asia geography. Myanmar is the only Southeast Asian country that shares a land border with northeastern India, stretching some 1,624 kilometers. The neighbours also share a 725-km maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
- India regards Myanmar as a gateway to link up to the rest of Southeast Asia, and thus has invested in ASEAN-wide infrastructural projects that are able to boost trade in the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area.
- Infrastructure projects are underway, such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway and Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT), which aims to connect the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with the Sittwe deep-water port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state by sea. It is incumbent on India to bring the projects they front and finance into fruition expeditiously.
- The Indian and Myanmar armies have carried out two joint military operations, codenamed Operation Sunshine 1 and 2, to fight militants along the borders of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which borders the northeastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram.
- India provides military training and conducts joint military exercises with the Myanmar Army like the India-Myanmar Bilateral Military Exercise (IMBAX-2017 and IMBEX 2018-19), by which India had trained the Myanmar Army to be able to participate in UN Peacekeeping Operations
- To elevate its “Made in India” arms industry, India has identified Myanmar as key to increasing its military exports. Along those lines, Myanmar bought India’s first locally-produced anti-submarine torpedo, called TAL Shyena, in 2017, and in 2019, Myanmar acquired a diesel-electric Kilo-class submarine, INS Sindhuvir, which India had modernized after purchasing from Russia in the 1980s.
- Myanmar’s importance to India’s conduct of cultural diplomacy through the lens of Buddhism for tourism purposes. Modi’s “Buddhist Circuit” initiative, which seeks to double foreign tourist arrivals and revenue by connecting ancient Buddhist heritage sites across different states in India, should resonate with Buddhist-majority Myanmar.