Armed Forces Day last Saturday turned into a day of shame for Myanmar, as was to be feared. The junta wanted to show who is in charge in Myanmar on this day and celebrated the day in the morning with a military parade and in the afternoon into the night with a battle festival of demonstrators. More than 100 people were killed on Saturday, often with targeted head shots, in all parts of the country. Since 1 February, the number of people killed has risen to over 500. On Sunday, the Air Force even launched attacks on the civilian population in the Papun district, less than 50 km from the Thai border, because the Karen army had captured a Tatmadaw outpost there. About 3,000 people then fled across the border to Thailand.
The day before, the military had announced the killing. State television had warned on Friday that protesters were in danger of being “shot in the head and in the back.” At the parade in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the junta, said that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy (sic). “This 76th Day of Myanmar’s Armed Forces will be remembered as a day of terror and shame,” said the European Union delegation in Myanmar. “The killing of unarmed civilians, including children, is unjustifiable.”
The celebrations on Armed Forces Day also included official representatives from China and Russia.
The parallel government takes shape
Shortly after it was constituted, the CPRH began to establish a parallel government and appointed its own ministers. The parallel government is building alliances in areas controlled by ethnic rebels and negotiating with armed groups, political parties and committees that have joined forces to overthrow the military. The aim is to unite the different groups and take joint action against the military junta.
It is clear that the numerous ethnic groups in Burma, persecuted and oppressed by the military since independence in 1948, insist that their demands for independence in a new federal state after a victory over the Tatmadaw be taken into account. For them, a unique opportunity has now come to put an end to oppression once and for all and to achieve autonomy for their peoples. The ethnic parties have clear ideas about their goals, they demand an end to the military dictatorship, a return to a civilian government and the release of all political prisoners. The abolition of the 2008 Constitution and its replacement by a Federal and democratic Constitution. The legal Form of a new Burma (or Myanmar, if the Name should be retained) is, therefore, a main object of the negotiations.
The negotiations are not easy, there are about 20 different armed groups in Myanmar, which in the past have always fought against the military, but sometimes also among themselves. There are still many rivalries and a lot of mistrust to be eliminated among each other, also towards the NLD, which in the last 5 years in government, out of consideration for the military, but certainly also out of national feelings, has not exactly distinguished itself as an advocate for the rights of ethnic minorities, to put it gently. In this context, it is only worth recalling Suu Kyi’s questionable statements about the events in Rakhine State in connection with the Rohingya conflict. But the will for understanding seems to be present on all sides, the people of Myanmar in general seem to be more united than ever at present and thus also the willingness to settle old disputes grows.
“There are still some suspicions from the past. We work together to eliminate these and build trust. We have now slowly begun to create a common basis, " said Zin Mar Aung, who was appointed Foreign Minister by the CPRH. But there are good hopes that an agreement could be reached by the end of March. A parallel government of national unity with roots in the ethnic areas could thus soon be established. Both sides can only win, but the most important thing is a victory over the military government. The harsher and more brutal the Tatmadaw continues to suppress the protests, the more likely it is that an agreement will be reached soon. “We are 80% on target,” says Zin Mar Aung on the talks on a federal union. “The CPRH is conducting negotiations with the various armed groups to reach an agreement on the terms of the creation of a federal union,” Zin Mar Aung continued.
One of the key issues to be resolved is how to build a new federal army that would form the core of a new People’s Army in a new Burma. “Working towards a federal union means that we need to work towards building a federal army based on ethical standards,” said Zin Mar Aung.
At the same time, the CPRH calls on the security forces to turn their weapons over to the CDM, the popular Resistance movement. Many have already done so and offered to help build a new army. The insignia of the new army has already been drawn up on social media, and activists are discussing modalities and strategies of armed resistance.
The CPRH operates underground. The junta has accused some of its members of treason. This carries either the death penalty or life imprisonment. The junta will not hesitate for a moment to execute the members of the CPRH if it gets hold of them. The leaders of the NLD are still in prison. The junta has filed a new fake bribery charge against Aung San Suu Kyi, meaning she could be sentenced to 15 years in prison. Ms. Suu Kyi is now 75 years old, and 15 years in prison would be as good as life for her.
The first priority for the CPRH must be to find a safe haven on friendly territory, a place from which it can coordinate counter-activities and a counter-attack to recapture the state apparatus and power. The government must be able to challenge the junta from a secure base in secure territory. There is almost only the border area with Thailand in the southeast of the country, where the armed groups of the Kayin, Kayah and Mon and the Karen National Union control large areas. The Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAO) have announced that they will defend their people against attacks by the military. In their areas, they are flanking the demonstrations of the civilian population with their submachine guns in order to protect them from attacks by the Tatmadaw. They also attack government police stations and military bases. Only two days ago, the KIA (Kachin Independent Army) captured a military base on the Chinese border. The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) has announced that it will provide protection and support to all victims of the Tatmadaw. Meanwhile, the Thai authorities already have plans for the construction of emergency shelters along the border, as a mass exodus of the civilian population is to be feared.
After the coup, the military regime formed peace negotiating committees to negotiate with the EAO, cajole them and play them off against each other. These peace negotiation committees want to give the government air. They are now reaching out to the EAO in an effort to maintain the truce most of them had concluded with the Tatmadaw in recent years and to make peace, at least until the regime is established. This does not seem to work, various groups have increasingly attacked police stations and even captured military bases in the last two weeks.
Putschist leader Min Aung Hlaing received a resounding slap in the face these days from Padoh Saw Mutu Say, the leader of the Karen ethnic group whose settlement areas are located along the Thai border, the area that is primarily a base for the CPRH. The Karen National Union (KNU) refuses to meet the coup leader as long as his troops do not stop killing civilians and do not grant freedom to all prisoners arrested after the coup. The KNU signed a ceasefire agreement with Tatmadaw in 2012 and the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015. In the north, the ethnic Kachin armed group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), captured strategic military outposts last week. Almost all EAO were invited to participate in the Armed Forces Day celebrations. Almost all of those invited refused to pay their respects to the Tatmadaw on the day of Burma’s Disgrace.
The CPRH has urged all countries to conduct negotiations only with it as the sole legitimate representative of the people of Myanmar. In addition to the CDM civil disobedience movement, which boycotts products made by companies owned by the military through consumer boycotts, the CPRH also calls for a boycott of the coup government. The Finance Minister of the CPRH, Tin Tun Naing, wants to prevent taxes and revenues from state enterprises from flowing to the military. The CPRH has also issued a call not to pay taxes for the current financial year. Last week, Tin Tun Naing issued a warning to all companies and financial institutions: investors “should refrain from submitting applications to the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) until further notice.” The next legitimate government of Myanmar will not recognize MIC permits issued by the illegitimate military regime, he warned.
Throughout Myanmar, even in urban areas, EAO safe zones are being created, i.e. areas that the Tatmadaw can no longer control and where structures are in charge that are directly controlled by the population.
None of the Western governments has yet dealt with the CPRH as the legitimate government of Myanmar. It is probably time to finally do this. The recognition of the CPRH as the legitimate government of Myanmar must soon follow if the confessions of “Western values”, freedom and democracy are to be more than mere lip service. The Western bloc must now accredit the designated representatives of the elected transitional government and reject credentials from Junta diplomats. Any dialogue between a third state and the junta is an indirect recognition of the junta and an affront to the people of Myanmar. Myanmar’s public funds frozen in accounts in the US and elsewhere must be made available to the CPRH as soon as the unity government is in place. The money belongs to the people of Myanmar, it must help the CPRH to overthrow the junta and not help the junta to consolidate its power.
Parallel to the popular boycott measures and the calls of the CPRH, there is a campaign of social punishment. The junta and its family members are being pilloried on social media. Their family ties, their business and business relationships, their whereabouts and photos of them, so that they can be recognized, are circulating on social media, along with the call to avoid these people and break off all relations with them. Many of the Junta members ' adult children study abroad or run their own businesses there with the money they have stolen from the people of Myanmar. Burmese compatriots residing in these countries apply to the universities to expel them from school and withdraw their scholarships, or to the state authorities to withdraw their residence permit or citizenship if they have accepted foreign citizenship. A future government will deprive them of their passports.
One could now speak of bullying or kinship detention. But we should not forget that here only with the same coin is paid back, what the family members of government opponents have so far participated. It is at best a form of retribution.
Dissidents in Burma are not only detained and tortured, their families are also pushed to the brink of existence. Family members in the civil service are dismissed, school principals are pressured not to accept their children, teachers are encouraged to discriminate against the children, and their classmates are warned not to associate with them. This ostracism is common in Burma. So here only the same is rewarded with the same.
Anger at China and Russia
The attitude of the Burmese population towards the PRC has long been ambivalent. And it is certainly not in line with the Junta’s traditionally good relations with its neighbour. The Tatmadaw does good business with Chinese capitalists, Burmese workers are employed at low wages and the civilian population pays the bill. China pursues its own national and capitalist interests in Myanmar. The public has previously resisted Chinese investment and the conditions under which local workers are employed in Chinese factories. Workers of Chinese-owned companies often earn no more than three to four USD a day.
Many of China’s investments in Myanmar are controversial among the population. This includes the $ 3.6 billion Myitsone dam project in northern Kachin State, which will dam the Irrawaddy, flood an area the size of Singapore and export 90% of the electricity generated to China. The construction site began in 2007 and had to be shut down in 2011 due to pressure from the population.
Wanbao Mining and Myanmar Yang Tse, subsidiaries of Chinese arms manufacturer NORINCO, operate notorious copper mines in Sagaing that have caused environmental destruction and immense suffering to local communities. Illegally harvested teak is exported by truck tons across the Burmese-Chinese border from Ruili to China.
The Chinese garment factories, which have shot up with the flourishing of industry throughout Myanmar, do not have a good reputation among the population. The working conditions and wages there are usually miserable. The clothing sector has become an important employer and a significant foreign exchange provider for Myanmar for over 10 years. The industry employs more than half a million workers with a production value of over US$ 6 billion per year. Most of the factories are either Chinese-owned or under Chinese management, which use Burmese low-wage workers to make clothes for H&M, C&A, Zara, etc. Many of these factories are located in Hlaing Tharyar, a district of Rangoon. The workers employed there are battle-tested and radicalized by years of industrial struggle.
Beijing sees Burma as a key partner in its strategic ambitions for Asia and its Belt and Road initiative. China is the largest investor in Myanmar, has traditionally had good relations with the generals and supported them even in the years when they were sanctioned by the West.
China is investing billions of USD in the Burmese section of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). For example, a pipeline was built from the Chinese border via Mandalay to Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State on the Gulf of Bengal, including a deep-sea port and a special economic zone. In parallel, a route for high-speed trains is to be built.
The route from the Chinese border in Yunnan province with the capital Kunming across Myanmar is less than 2,000 km, which is closer than from Kunming to Hong Kong. And also from Chongqing in Central China, the starting point of the new Silk Road, it is only marginally further to Kyaukphyu than to Hong Kong. The sea route from Hong Kong through the South China Sea, past Singapore, also continues through the Strait of Malacca, an unsafe route, the Strait of Malacca can be easily closed in case of conflict. NATO currently wants to “show a greater presence” in the region in order to “curb"the influence of China, which the West sees more and more as a competitor and seeks to condemn as an aggressor. For goods exports to Europe and Africa, the route through Burma is an alternative, it is shorter and safer.
China has called the February 1 coup a mere “cabinet reshuffle” and has blocked attempts by the UN Security Council to take decisive action against the coup plotters. That is why the demonstrators see China as a supporter of the coup, which has triggered a wave of anti-Chinese protests in Myanmar. China has failed to condemn the coup and the deadly crackdown against the demonstrators. Instead, China views the coup as an” internal affair " of Myanmar. The demonstrators then parodied Beijing’s language and declared that it would also be an internal affair of Myanmar if they blew up the oil and gas pipelines. And at the same time, they warned China not to take further measures against the regime at the next meeting of the UN Security Council.
Outrage continued to mount after a document leaked in early March showed that Junta Foreign Ministry staff had met with a Chinese delegation in Naypyitaw for an emergency meeting. The delegation had come specifically to urge the junta to increase pipeline security and protect Chinese property. In addition, China asked the military regime to put pressure on the media to “reduce skepticism about China,” according to the document.
As expected, a resolution tabled by Britain condemning the coup was watered down in the UN Security Council on March 10, under pressure from China and Russia. This again blocked the attempt to punish the putschists. China and Russia have prevented the UN from acting, it has remained a call for de-escalation and negotiations, as well as a call for the release of the prisoners. Lots of hot air, nothing concrete.
On March 14, when the security forces used deadly force against demonstrators in Hlaingthaya, a suburb of Rangoon with numerous Chinese clothing companies, killing 38 people, some Chinese factories were set on fire. Even before the events, the Internet read: “If the blood of a resident of Hlaingthaya falls to the ground, a Chinese factory must burn.”
China then called on the military regime to take tougher action against the demonstrators. “China calls on Myanmar to take effective measures to punish the arsonists in accordance with the law and to ensure the safety of the lives and property of Chinese companies and people,” Beijing said in a statement. China seems to be more concerned about the property and assets of the People’s Republic and its businessmen than about the lives of the demonstrators. Shortly after this statement, the junta declared martial law in Hlaingthaya municipality, further fueling anger against Beijing.
Beijing’s policy on Myanmar is pathetic, to put it mildly. China stands only for its own advantage. China has remained silent and failed to condemn the military regime, even though hundreds of people have lost their lives during peaceful protests. And now it is even calling on the junta to take tougher action against the protesters to protect the property of Chinese exploiters.
In this context, it is important to stress that the people’s outrage is directed against the policies of the People’s Republic of China, not against the Chinese people themselves. There are millions of people of Chinese origin in Burma. Like the Burmese, they have joined the resistance movement, have been demonstrating with them since‘ an Seit‘ and many of them have already been killed. They feel like Burmese and boycott Chinese companies just like all other Burmese. The ethnic Chinese community in Rangoon has announced that it supports the anti-coup movement and has nothing to do with the PRC.
More than 200 foreign and domestic companies have signed a statement issued by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) to express their concern about developments since the February 1 coup. However, not a single Chinese company has so far spoken out against the military coup or signed the MCRB statement.
“China maintains friendly relations with all parties in Myanmar. No matter which party is in power, Myanmar maintains friendly cooperation with China,” it says from Beijing. “Those who maliciously slander China and incite attacks against Chinese factories are common enemies of China and Myanmar and must be severely punished.“Beijing refers to expressions of sympathy for the democracy movement from outside as “interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs” and formally withdraws from the position of not wanting to interfere in Burma’s internal affairs. Since 1949, when the People’s Republic was founded, China has done nothing but interfere in Burma’s internal affairs, as Bertil Lintner explained in an article in the newspaper “The Irrawaddy”.
China was also informed in advance of the coup d’état of February 1. It is not clear whether the generals had informed Beijing in advance or whether they had their own intelligence sources. In any case, in the days before the coup, China transferred about 12,000 troops to the Sino-Myanmar border.
On Saturday, a Chinese and a Russian delegation took part in the Armed Forces Day celebrations and met with the generals. General Hlaing even called Russia a “true friend”. So the attitude of China and Russia has not changed yet, the way they team up with the generals is a disgrace. It may be understandable that, after the bitter experience in the UN Security Council, where Russia and China have been frequently discussed in the past, the two major powers are wary of supporting UN resolutions tabled by the West. But demonstratively, after all the murders in Myanmar, to celebrate Armed Forces Day together with the murderers is already a strong piece. They had to know that after the celebrations the killing would continue, the whole world knew it, the generals had announced it.
It may be that Beijing is still making a u-turn, its position is becoming increasingly untenable. However, it is crucial what China intends to do, as it is the only country that has a significant influence in Myanmar on the ruling military. China has a 2,000 km border with Burma. The day Beijing gives up its support for the junta, its government collapses like a house of cards.
China and Russia have long been capitalist countries like the countries of the West. Their form of capitalism is only a different variant from capitalism in the neoliberal West. Here, too, private property and national interests go beyond solidarity with peoples. Developing countries that are about to turn to China will be watching the events in Burma and China’s attitude with attention. This is precisely why China is not intervening. Why should it? States have their interest and China has a lot to lose should it intervene. Business is something other than taking over the country and plundering it as the West will do. The self-determination of peoples! You can not make one on Rebel and as you realize you do not arrive, others pay the bill cash.
“We must fight until the junta falls”, that is the general sentiment in Burma, this statement is heard from all sides of the opposition, be it from the demonstrators in the street, be it from the ethnic groups and their armies, be it from the CPRH.
Some Western “Burma experts”, however, believe that one must negotiate now and involve the military leadership in the process. They should be “brought back on board”. Unfortunately, these” experts " forget to say on what basis and what one should negotiate now, please. About how many people the military is allowed to shoot “legally” per day? Or about how much percent of Myanmar’s GDP they still have to give to the people so that they don’t starve to death?
The insurgents in Burma, this is the military, not the CPRH, not the people and not the protesters who take to the streets every day. It is the military that has started the dispute again, it is the military that has prevented the formation of a new civilian government after the elections by a coup d’état, it is the military that has arrested the elected deputies and the leaders of the NLD, it is the military that has already shot 500 protesters in cold blood since the first of February, it is the military that has locked thousands of them in prison, it is the military, which has declared a state of emergency and martial law and is now rampaging and murdering through the streets of the cities in Myanmar and shooting indiscriminately in the area. And then some nine-wise men from the West come along and call for negotiations. The train has left, there is nothing left to negotiate.
Some also believe ASEAN could fix it. Having an internationally ostracized pariah like Myanmar in its midst is certainly embarrassing for ASEAN, it also ruins the reputation of the ASEAN states. However, there is no procedure in the ASEAN Charter on how to exclude member states. Excluding Myanmar from ASEAN would only be possible with the unanimous support of the heads of government of the rest of the ASEAN bloc. And that will not happen.
After two months of murder in Burma, nothing but hot air has come from the ASEAN countries. Eight countries – Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand – sent representatives to the military parade on Saturday. Russia sent its deputy Defense Minister and the others sent military attachés. Vietnam, Laos and Thailand are members of the ASEAN states, Thailand’s government is itself a hidden military dictatorship, by this alone one can see what Myanmar has to fear from the ASEAN states: nothing. In addition, ASEAN has no mandate for negotiations, from either side. The CPRH operates underground, it will not sit at the negotiating table. No matter what the ASEAN will negotiate, the people of Burma were not asked. And to appeal only to the insight of the Tatmadaw is about as hopeless as to appeal to a river, which has stepped over the banks after violent thunderstorms, that he may please return to his bed.
Some countries are also thinking about an arms embargo. When they are done with thinking, the matter is already done in Burma, not to mention that the military in Burma also has enough weapons and ammunition to terrorize the population and is not urgently dependent on supplies of weapons.
Some also think that one could return to the point where one was before February 1. And the murders and crimes committed by the military in the last 2 months, should we just forget about them? No one in Myanmar will accept this. And even if that were possible, then after the coup would still be before the coup. The military would only wait for the next favorable opportunity.
After the victory of the resistance movement there will have to be a kind of “denazification” in Burma. The main culprits must be brought before a people’s court and punished with all severity and rendered harmless. Since the Nuremberg trials, national laws or the holding of a state office no longer offer protection against persecution by international criminal law. Wherever the generals may be hiding, they must be tracked down and held accountable.
Those who are concerned about the situation in Myanmar and who want to help the people there must first break off all relations with the junta, expel their embassy staff from the country, recognize CPRH as the only legitimate government of Myanmar and accredit CPRH ambassadors in their place. The people of Myanmar, who are mobilizing against the coup, urgently need material and active support from outside. What they do not need are pointless appeals for peace and advice. If the West fails to provide humanitarian aid, this amounts to a de facto participation in crimes against humanity.
No soldier, no policeman, no civil servant can now claim that he is only doing his job. Just as no killer of the mafia can talk himself out of it, he was unemployed and since the mafia just offered him a job as a killer, of something you have to live after all.
There is no justification for the actions of the police: “They are acting completely against international human rights standards by wantonly using excessive and often deadly force against demonstrators and activists,” said Philip Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. It is absolutely ridiculous for the Junta government to claim to abide by laws and the rule of law. The members of the Burmese military junta form a criminal association. The military does not serve national defense, they are parasites who plunder the state treasury and do not shy away from murder and manslaughter.
The possessions of the military and their families, especially the MEC and the FLOUR, must be expropriated and returned to state ownership. All soldiers and policemen who have participated in crimes against their own people must be held accountable and severely punished. The CPRH has called on all Burmese to join the resistance movement and has warned that it would consider those who remain in the service of the military and take action against their own people as traitors to the people.
Martial law still prevails in Myanmar. The military have proclaimed it themselves. High treason carries the death penalty. Why should not the butchers of their own people be condemned and punished under their own laws? In Nuremberg, the captured war criminals were hanged. And that was right.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s policies have tried to convince the military to take the democratic path. The attempt failed miserably. She might as well have tried to persuade a nest of vipers to become tame pets. And not only that, the military did not thank her, they took advantage of her and used her as a facade as long as Suu Kyi was useful to them. Suu Kyi has gone so far as to deny the genocide of the Rohingya in favor of the military at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. All their efforts in the last 10 years have failed, Suu Kyi’s policies have failed. Now the military have betrayed them and put them in prison again. They cover her with unsubstantiated charges in order to let her stew in prison until the end of her life. Myanmar must now think beyond the politics of Suu Kyi. A return to the point before February 1, 2021 there can not be a continuation of the policy of Suu Kyi either.
Myanmar will be a completely different, a completely new country if it succeeds in disempowering the junta. Myanmar will soon be a federal republic when the plans of the CPRH come to fruition. A new army will be built with the involvement of the underground fighters of the ethnic minorities, an army that serves only the national defense and the interests of the Burmese people.
The worst is yet to come, according to analysts, commentators and diplomats. What can be said with certainty, however, is that Myanmar will no longer be the same country.
“You messed with the wrong generation,” is a statement that can often be heard during the protests. They are young people who will own the future of Myanmar. First, however, the dinosaurs that block their way to the future must be eliminated.