The military junta’s measures against the civilian population in Burma are becoming increasingly brutal. The number of fatalities is increasing daily and is likely to have reached 800 by the time these lines are written. The number of injured and imprisoned opponents of the coup exceeds this number many times over. The generals are furious because, eleven weeks after the coup, they have still not managed to suppress the protests and bring the country under control. They behave like an army of occupation in their own country. The resistance is growing stronger and the counter-government of the CPRH is gaining authority. A new Burmese army is in the process of forming and is already providing the army with daily battles.
A brief review
On 8 November, in the midst of a pandemic wave of Covid-19, elections were held in Myanmar. The NLD (National Ligue for Democracy), led by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Councillor of State and Foreign Minister Aung Suu Kyi, won a huge victory, even increasing its share of the vote from 2015 and winning over 80% of the seats to be awarded.
However, the 2008 Constitution, written by the military and imposed on the people, allows the military to allocate 25% of the seats in the Lower and Upper Houses at its own discretion. In addition, regardless of the outcome of the election, the military has the three most important ministries of Interior, Defence and border affairs. From these three ministries comes the state authority, the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for the administration of the state. The remaining, less important ministries such as social affairs, families, labour, etc. can then be divided between the elected civil parties.
We want to break this up a little bit for a better understanding of how undemocratic the composition of the two houses in Myanmar is even before every election:
The Lower House consists of 440 deputies and the Upper House of 224 deputies, a total of 664 seats. 25% of these are 110 resp. 56 Deputies, which the military can assign to its people at will in the Lower and Upper House. According to Adam Riese 330 resp. 168, so a total of 498 seats to be elected. The military also sent its own party, the USDP, into the race for the remaining 75% of seats to be awarded.
After counting the votes, 258 + 138= 396 seats were allocated to Suu Kyi’s party and only 26+7=33 seats to the USDP. The rest went to numerous micro parties, there were over 90 (!) Parties admitted. The military, although it won less than 5% of the electoral votes, received 199 out of a total of 664 seats, that is 30%, because it is allowed to appoint an additional 110+56= 166 deputies.
The NLD had won the elections with an absolute majority and, had the coup not prevented it, would have been able to form the government in Myanmar again.
The dominant election issue in 2020 had been the restriction of military power. Already in its first legislative period, the NLD-led government had outsourced an important department, the GAD, from the Ministry of the Interior, which according to the Constitution belongs to the military, and placed it under the supervision of the central government. The NLD had also made initial attempts to amend the Constitution and gradually limit the number of seats to be allocated by the military in future elections, first to 15% and then to 5% in the future. Myanmar’s parliamentary elections in 2020 have revealed an overwhelming voter rejection of military involvement in politics and given the future government a clear mandate for further democratic reforms.
After this renewed, even greater electoral defeat after 2015, the military saw its skins floating down the stream. The commander-in-chief of the army, the fascist and war criminal General Min Aung Hlaing, who retired shortly after the elections, had sought the office of president after his retirement in order to effectively defend the influence of the Tatmadaw on politics and economy against all democratic aspirations. The election result dashed his hopes.
After the victory of the NLD, the Tatmadaw began to call the elections fake and to demand a recount from the electoral commission, which refused. The Tatmadaw has never provided evidence of electoral fraud and the elections have also been recognised internationally as legitimate. Moreover, the election result is so clear that there can be no question that the NLD would have won the elections only by falsification. At this point we would like to point out that in our opinion the military does not have anything to do in any parliament in the world, not even in Myanmar.
Since the Tatmadaw was now afraid of being completely removed from politics in the longer term, and thus also of its ability to continue to suck out the state unchecked, it took the unproven claim of electoral fraud on the first of February of this year as a pretext to prevent the newly elected parliament from meeting in its new composition on the day of its first session, and thus from appointing a new government. Instead, they preferred to prevent the parliamentary session and arrest their best-known political opponents without further ado. The Tatmadaw had already demanded that the meeting of the new parliament be postponed until after a recount of the electoral votes. They wisely never disclosed where and when electoral fraud should have taken place, it remained with the vague accusation, but they indicated that otherwise they would seize power, which then also happened.
But the military did not expect the violent reactions and protests of the population. After the first shock had been overcome, the resistance formed. The first to go on strike were various professions, including doctors and hospital staff, teachers and public servants, and founded the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). The first mass rallies took place a few days later. However, it took until 21 February before the military began to target the demonstrators with live ammunition. Since then, the Tatmadaw has only been able to maintain its rule through the most brutal measures.
We no longer want to list all the stages of the escalation of violence. Since the beginning of the coup, the reflection pages have regularly reported on it, and more can and could be seen in the daily news broadcasts on television and in the press.
The situation of the Tatmadaw becomes more and more hopeless
A temporary high point of the violence was February 27, the day of the Armed Forces, when the military celebrated itself with a large military parade in Naypyidaw and ended the day with a bloodbath with more than a hundred demonstrators shot dead.
Since then, the Situation has escalated further and further. The brutality of the security forces is increasing every day. If you ever had any scruples, you have now abandoned them all. The approach against the demonstrators is becoming increasingly aggressive. The generals are foaming with rage because the people cannot be defeated. However, the harsher the security forces are against the demonstrators, the more bitter their determination not to give up until the Tatmadaw are finally defeated. This time they want to finish the job. Even a military victory of the junta would not bring stability in Myanmar, but the resistance will continue.
The military has now begun to launch air strikes against the civilian population and has already driven thousands of people from their villages. They are on the run, either in their own country, in neighboring Thailand, India or Bangladesh.
The junta also relies on curfews and Internet shutdowns to limit communication between its opponents. Most recently, they are ordering households to remove their satellite dishes so that they get as little information as possible. The satellite dishes were not licensed and they threatened to take legal action if they found that the satellite dishes were still there the next time they came for inspection. Police reportedly confiscated all satellite dishes in the shops.
Arrest warrants have been issued against 40 well-known actors, models and social media influencers, most of whom have already gone underground. They are accused of spreading information that could lead to a mutiny in the armed forces.
Meanwhile, state media reported that 19 people were sentenced to death by a military court for robbery and murder. They were accused of beating an officer and beating his friend, an informant, to death. 17 of them were sentenced in absentia, no trial took place.
The leader of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been charged with a new charge. She has not been seen in public since she was arrested in the early hours of February 1st. She is now charged in a total of six cases, unsubstantiated charges, which include possession of radio equipment. If the junta is not overthrown, she will spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Violence has escalated in recent days and martial law has been imposed on many townships. On April 11, the Tatmadaw shot dead 80 people in Bago, near Rangoon. Thus, the death rate rose to over 700, when this post appears, there will already be 800 or more. Not a day goes by when people do not take to the streets, and not a day goes by when the Tatmadaw do not shoot protesters or arrest and beat them to death. Doctors in private hospitals are beaten up, either because they treat injured opponents of the government, or because they refuse to treat members of the security forces. Paramedics are prevented from recovering injured, people disappear without a trace and without a message. It is like the times of the South American dictatorships, from Guatemala to Chile to Argentina and Haiti.
Many demonstrators defend themselves with barricades, slingshots, arrows and Molotov cocktails. “If we don’t shoot back, the demonstrators will be easily killed and the protests will stop in our community,” says one protester on the barricades, adding that the armed resistance is taking place in both rural and urban areas. “Police and soldiers must fear the people. The police are afraid of guns and do not dare to shoot people indiscriminately because they know that people will shoot back,” he said.
Resistance continues on the barricades with single - shot rifles, shotguns, but also with AK47 and M16 assault rifles as well as with Molotov cocktails and hand grenades and, if necessary, even with bows and arrows. Here are pictures from March 27th in Rangoon.
No Burmese government, neither the English colonial rulers nor the NLD-led government nor the Tatmadaw, have ever been able to control all of Myanmar, and they will not be able to do so now. The ethnic minorities inhabit about half of the country and their armies control large parts of their territory. These armies are now turning to guerrilla tactics. They attack police posts and military bases of the Tatmadaw every day somewhere in the country or set an ambush. They have already captured some bases and killed numerous soldiers and policemen.
The coloured areas are largely controlled by the EAO’s
At least 14 policemen were killed when armed ethnic groups attacked a military outpost in Shan State. The Brotherhood Alliance also carried out a deadly attack on a police station in northern Shan State.
In the Sagaing region, locals attacked Junta soldiers with homemade rifles when they heard that regime troops stationed in Kalay were on their way to Tamu to counter anti-coup demonstrations. Locals in Tamu themselves attacked the forces of the junta when they entered the city on Saturday to suppress protests.
In Kayah and Kayin state, Karen raids on military outposts and police stations are commonplace. There, the Luftwaffe also bombed Karen villages as revenge.
The largest branch of the Myawaddy Bank in Mandaly, which belongs to the military, was attacked, a security guard was injured in the Explosion.
On April 4, demonstrators even carried out a prisoner exchange with the security forces.
The parallel government takes shape
On March 31, the CPRH announced that the project of an interim government of national unity based on an agreed federal charter of Democracy is nearing completion.
The committee consists mainly of members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), who were elected in the general elections of 2020, but were unable to take their seats due to the coup of February 1. The CPRH will work to overthrow the junta by using all means: political, economic, social, through foreign policy, through diplomacy and also militarily. At the same time, it annulled the 2008 Constitution and presented a federal Charter of democracy to provide a platform for all opposition actors, including ethnic minorities, to come together and work together. In Rangoon, people cheered and fired fireworks, and in several cities, they publicly burned copies of the 2008 Charter. The CPRH has called on all members of the security forces to overflow with their weapons, and all state officials to stop working for the junta. Those who continue to support the junta will be held accountable after a victory of the People’s Alliance.
Yesterday, the CPRH announced that it will present a list of new cabinet members as early as Friday. The interim Cabinet was formed with the consent of the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and will include ministers from their midst.
Next, legislative and judicial bodies are to be formed. A national convention is also to be formed to draft a new constitution, which is to be adopted only after a national referendum. The interim Cabinet was formed following a series of meetings between the current CPRH members and the leaders of various EAOs and ethnic political parties that took place after the former NLD government officially expired on 31 March. The government of national unity will include ethnic minorities; the Federal Charter of Democracy, published on 1 April, provides for a Myanmar with autonomy for its ethnic minorities.
The role of the CPRH must now be to advance the process of unification of the various interest groups and ethnic minorities, to coordinate the activities of the CDM, to seek diplomatic recognition of the foreign country as a legitimate transitional government of Myanmar and to take care of the financing of the uprising and the care of the strikers and the army under construction.
Almost all major armed ethnic groups have now backed the CPRH. They are getting more and more support from the people who want to flee from the big cities to the countryside and fight against the junta.
What can foreign countries do?
All well-meaning appeals and all good appeals from abroad to the junta will be in vain. The junta will not give up, it must be defeated. The same applies to the People’s Alliance. Even if it should be defeated, the resistance will continue in some form. The junta will never pacify the country again, no matter what happens, it has played all its cards with the population.
Western governments must now recognize the CPRH as the legitimate representative of Myanmar, allowing it access to public funds frozen in the US banking system. The cabinet appointed by the CPRH has always described itself as a transitional government that acts for the imprisoned NLD ministers. The mandate of the old NLD government expired on 31 March, leaving Myanmar without a government elected by parliament. This changes the situation in the sense that even the Tatmadaw supporters previously represented in parliament now no longer have a mandate. All Myanmar diplomats abroad are now theoretically without legitimacy.
Most governments will be tempted to wait to see how broadly the CPRH can put together an umbrella government to also see if it has a chance of surviving.
The base of the CPRH interim government is located in the Thai border areas. This makes them partly dependent on the Thai government, which must allow goods, money and people to cross the border. Currently, the CPRH is supplied almost exclusively by the Karen National Union (KNU). The KNU has long-standing relations with the Thai military hierarchy. In the future, however, the Thai government’s political stance could become a problem. She certainly has no interest in a victory in Myanmar, because she must fear that an overthrow of the military junta could also have an invigorating influence on the protest movement in Thailand. The Thai government itself is only a sham democracy under military supremacy. But it also has no interest in a war of attrition by the Tatmadaw against the KNU on its border with Myanmar, which would expel tens of thousands of civilians and drive them across the Thai border as refugees. Against the will of the Thai government or at least its tolerance, the CPRH will hardly be able to survive
Negotiations with the Tatmadaw?
The five years of the NLD-led government coalition with the Tatmadaw were basically nothing more than five years of negotiations on the Transition from a military dictatorship to a civilian government. The Tatmadaw had got involved because they had hoped to whitewash the bad reputation that military dictatorships have on the political stage by forming a sham democracy, while still maintaining control over the country. The instrument for this was to be the constitution, which they themselves had written a few years earlier and enforced with tricks and threats, and which was to ensure that the true power relations in Myanmar would not change.
No matter who wins the elections would be forced to govern together with the Tatmadaw, the Tatmadaw is always with in government, regardless of any election results. The Tatmadaw also retain the key ministries and key positions and thus remain the true masters of Myanmar. The civilian part of the government under this Constitution, which can prevent changing the Tatmadaw with its veto right at any time, would be just the fig leaf of a de facto military government. Ms. Suu Kyi and the NLD that she runs got involved in the game. When the Tatmadaw, who had never ceded control of the country, and had no intention of ever doing so, came to the conclusion that they risked being sidelined in the long run by a civilian government, they turned back the wheel and organized the February 1 coup.
The policy of dialogue with the Tatmadaw of Ms. Suu Kyi has failed magnificently. Now Suu Kyi is locked up again and faces a possible life sentence. Their supporters were arrested and tortured. All that remains is the “sad memory of a civilian government… that did not live up to the expectations of the people who voted for the NLD in 2015."(Bertil Lintner). Nevertheless, Suu Kyi remains an icon for the people of Myanmar. Thousands are on the streets every day, holding up a picture of her and demanding her release. This is also true, the detention of Ms. Suu Kyi is unjust and illegal. Nevertheless, their policy should not be continued after the fall of the junta. The Tatmadaw must be held accountable and banished from politics forever.
And now some scribes come and suggest that one must now negotiate with the Tatmadaw, the danger that otherwise a civil war could break out is great. The fact is that the civil war in Burma has been going on continuously for more than 40 years. There was only one improvement during the 5 years NLD government under Suu Kyi, but there was never a reconciliation with the ethnic groups. There was only a truce, which was more or less observed. The ceasefire was agreed in 2015 by 10 ethnic groups, shortly before the NLD government of Suu Kyi took office, with the Thein-Sein government, not with the Tatmadaw.
The foundations of the truce were destroyed by the Tatmadaw themselves, now that they have formed their own government by, for example, attacking and bombing the contractors, the EAOs, with the Air Force.
There is little reason to believe that the military will back down if you ask them nicely enough.
To those who think that now is the time for negotiations, it should be said that the Tatmadaw did not even want to receive the UN envoy, Mrs. Christine Schraner Burgener, who was in Bangkok last week, for peace talks. She was refused entry to Burma. “Just arrived for talks in BKK. I regret that the Tatmadaw answered me yesterday that they are not ready to receive me. I am ready for dialogue. Violence never leads to peaceful, sustainable solutions, " Ms. Schraner Burgener wrote on her official Twitter account. UN officials say the envoy wants to travel to Myanmar to meet with the generals in person, but a junta spokesman ruled this out.
Some also think that the ASEAN countries, where Myanmar is a member, should start negotiations with the junta. EU High Representative Josep Borell also suggests this, probably in order to transfer responsibility to ASEAN. They hope ASEAN can fix it. And if not, they can be accused of screwing it up.
A summit between ASEAN and Myanmar is planned for the end of the month, more than three months after the coup and after 800 people have already been shot. The bloc is deeply divided because of the crisis; on Armed Forces Day, about half of the ASEAN member states had even sent representatives to Naypyidaw to celebrate with the generals. This amounts to de facto recognition of the Junta government. ASEAN is focused on consensus within its group and will avoid interfering in Myanmar’s “internal affairs”. Previous negotiations between ASEAN foreign ministers on the coup in Myanmar did not lead to a unified policy.
Moreover, many of the leaders of the region themselves have little priority in upholding democratic ideals. They themselves silence their opponents and violently crush protest movements, as now again in Thailand. The Prime Minister of Thailand is himself a coup general. Do you seriously expect such people to condemn the junta in Myanmar and fight for democracy? “Stability” in Burma, yes, that’s what everyone wants. From the USA to Europe to Asia and Japan. The stability you mean means that you can continue to maintain undisturbed business relations with Burma. It had looked so beautiful recently: Burma under the leadership of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, after long years of military dictatorship, finally on the road to democracy. And now this. But capital asks for return, not for morality.
Whoever is ruling in Burma right now is unimportant for the hypocrites, also how the people there are doing. “Stability”, you need for business and for the"Keep it up”. The orchestra is currently playing disharmonic tones. This irritates the dancers. They were never interested in the waiters.
In the UN Security Council, China and Russia hold hands over the generals and thwart any concrete action against them. It remains with powerless words. Especially now, for example, the imposition of a no-fly zone over the areas of the ethnic minorities, where many members of the new interim government have also found refuge, would be a requirement of the first hour. The UN ambassador from Myanmar, who was recently in the international headlines because he is loyal to the CPRH, also calls for a no-fly zone.
With China and Russia likely to continue to veto the UN Security Council in the near future to protect Myanmar’s generals, individual countries could choose to discuss the matter openly in the UN General Assembly, which would increase pressure on the veto powers Russia and China.
However, many measures such as an arms embargo, far-reaching sanctions and the suspension of the junta’s income streams do not have to go through the UN Security Council. There are many other ways for individual countries to take action to stop the killers. Myanmar’s oil and gas sector would also now have to be urgently sanctioned in order to limit the junta’s income streams. But the French company TOTAL, to name just this one, refuses to stop the production of natural gas in the Gulf of Martaban, although this has long been demanded by the insurgents. The natural gas produced there is mainly used for electricity production. The CPRH has asked electricity customers to stop paying their electricity bills in order to withdraw further financial resources from the junta, while at the same time Total and other international corporations in the industry continue to pay their taxes to the junta, money that belongs to the people and not to the junta. It is frustrating that neighbors such as China, India and Southeast Asian nations hardly exert pressure on the junta and only emit hot air bubbles. ” It’s not a question of whether they can do it, but why they can’t, " said Dr. Sasa, an ally of the CPRH.
The international community must now use all economic, legal and diplomatic means to isolate the military in Myanmar. To remain inactive is to take sides against the people of Myanmar. The military in Burma only hope that the world will remain inactive.
Rise of autocracy in Southeast Asia
On Armed Forces Day, the military shot more than 100 of its own citizens. Far from publicly condemning the brutality, the military forces of neighboring countries, including Russia, China, India, Thailand and Vietnam, posed with the generals, legitimizing their coup.
The coup in Myanmar feels like a relic of the past. Whether in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Cambodia, democracy is in retreat everywhere. Of course, democracy has never really flourished there, but if until a few years ago it seemed as if the situation was gradually improving, then retrogression can now be seen almost everywhere. The opposition is increasingly silenced and, condemned by corrupt judges, is in prison. The media have become tame, they only bring what does not hurt the government, and report on trivial matters. The UN Security Council, regardless of which country it is concerned with, is prevented from taking decisive action either by the United States, Great Britain and France, or, as is now the case with Myanmar, Russia and China, by the veto of one of the two blocs.
" The era of regional rulers – they are all men – has returned, " wrote the Bangkok Post last Tuesday. “The likelihood of a renewed flow of refugees from Myanmar, in the heart of Asia, could destabilize Southeast Asia. Thousands are already crowding the border with Thailand, which raises fears that they will bring Covid-19 with them.”
Myanmar is much worse affected by Covid-19 than Thailand, so the borders between Thailand and Burma have been closed since April last year. In the midst of the current civil war turmoil, the disease will certainly spread even faster in Myanmar, and fighting the pandemic is now certainly not at the top of the junta’s priorities. And the opposition lacks the means to do so.
“Democratization is damaging worldwide,” says Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “The resurgence of authoritarianism in Southeast Asia is part of this general retreat and rollback.”
Southeast Asia is ruled by old men, but more than half of the population is under 30. Many have studied and are connected with the world. A victory of the new interim government in Myanmar and a new process of democratization on a federal basis could reverse the trend, strengthen the resolve of the new young generation and show the people of the region that something changes when you fight for it.
Myanmar’s reforms in the last decade have benefited young people who are eagerly connecting with the world. In Thailand, the same young people oppose the ancient dinosaurs in the military and in the network of the monarchy. “The youth of Southeast Asia, these young digital natives, naturally despise authoritarianism because it does not correspond to their democratic lifestyle. They will not give up fighting back,” says Mr. Thitinan. “That is why authoritarianism in the region, however bad things may seem now, is not a permanent state.”