Myanmar in turmoil: The Statesman

NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The inadequacy of Myanmar’s neighbours and regional players with some leverage, especially Asean and India, to intervene effectively in helping bring about a rapprochement between the ruling military clique and the Opposition led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) is a major cause for the latest bout of turmoil in that troubled country.

On Tuesday (Sept 7), Myanmar’s shadow government declared a “people’s defensive war” against the junta sparking fears of widespread violence leading to a civil war-like situation. In a video message broadcast online, the National Unity Government’s (NUG) acting president, Mr Duwa Lashi La, urged people to avoid unnecessary travel, directed government employees not to attend office, and asked the citizenry to stock up on medications and daily necessities.

He also called on anti-junta armed resistance groups including Myanmar’s ethnic militias to take on the junta’s forces militarily in their areas of influence “immediately”.

Already, there have been reports of previously peaceful protestors taking up arms and attacking government soldiers in response to the brutal crackdown launched by the generals after the Feb 1 coup, and the queues at markets and petrol pumps in Myanmar’s major cities have intensified the perception that a more violent turn to events is on the anvil.

The NUG has been careful to iterate that its call for a people’s war was necessitated by the brutality and uncompromising attitude of the junta.

“I believe that our neighbouring countries, Asean countries, the United Nations and all other countries around the world understand that we do it out of necessity,” Mr Duwa Lashi La said in his online broadcast.

In a separate statement, the NUG declared a “state of emergency” which it said would end only with the restoration of a civilian government to power. Nearly 200 localised, semi-autonomous resistance groups are now expected to step up their guerrilla-style attacks on troops and police officers; junta forces will not only respond in kind going by past record but are also likely to do so disproportionately.

The failure of the international community to push the junta into a power-sharing arrangement with the civilian political leadership and agree on a roadmap for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar for over six months now, is clearly responsible for the democratic forces losing patience.

Much like the Afghans, the people of Myanmar too have come to realise that the allies whom they depended on have left them in the lurch in their time of need.

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While the Asean member nations, especially, and India claim to be working behind the scenes to prevent the situation from spiralling into widespread violence, it is China which, once again, is likely to exhibit its strategic heft as it uses its close ties with the Myanmar junta to try and hammer out a compromise in the coming weeks and months.

  • The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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