Myanmar coup: Death knell for democracy? |

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nobel peace prize laureate aung san tsuchi is back under house arrest in myanmar facing trumped-up charges of illegally importing walkie-talkies the military deposed her and the country’s elected government on monday declaring a state of emergency for the next 12 months its head claimed the army’s hand was forced by mass voter fraud in november’s elections which aung san tsuchi’s party won by a landslide she called for supporters to protest the intervention but is it too late our title myanmar coup death knell for democracy [Music] welcome to to the point it’s a pleasure to introduce our guests yasmine lor works for the independent social science research institute giga and she says the international community has been living in denial for a long time the military has never really wanted to see real democratic change in myanmar and with us is felix hyduk from the berlin-based policy and science think tank swp his opinion the coup has put an end to myanmar’s illiberal and partly authoritarian transition to democracy and it’s great to welcome my colleague suchi van bhumerzum from dw’s asia desk she thinks the military seizure of power could lead to deadly violence the military will reinforce a culture of abuse and impunity threatening to end human rights and economic stability in myanmar so let me go straight away to yusuchi with that mention of deadly violence in your opening statement so far the streets appear to be relatively calm so how would you assess the potential for bloodshed going forward the way that i see it that the reason uh people are not protesting just yet on mars is i think for the reason that they are very scared and they know that the military has had a very brutal history of violent violence and the people in the generation that saw the 1988 uprising and violent crackdown on anti-government protesters and witnessed uh their family members slaughtered before their eyes they were this is a sort of deja vu for them and so this is just a reminder of what the military is capable of and that the reason they are not protesting yet i think they will find more creative ways only time will tell but for now most people the the number one concern i think when people woke up in myanmar on monday was uh the fear of their security of their loved ones and their own safety can i go back out in the street as before as before because they know that in the time when the military ruled it was a whole different life yes man you say the military never truly wanted democratic change nevertheless it’s decided to tear down the democratic facade it had tolerated why now well i think a major reason are the november uh 2020 elections in which the nld was confirmed in power in a landslide victory ld being chuchi’s party being on sunday’s party that had basically left the the liberalization or opening process um and i think the military and its the party it backs the usdp had also overestimated their own showing in these elections even though that’s surprising because it was probably obvious that people still uh overwhelmingly supported the nld so i think this um the nld being reconfirmed in power was a major reason because the military might have been afraid or was probably afraid that nld would now push further push further reforms perhaps by amending the constitution of 2008 which the military had drafted originally in order to preserve many of its domains or by more subtle ways such as making the administration more civilian and like get it out of military control um so with this reconfirmation that the nld micro more powerful in in restricting the part of the military and uh felix let me get your take on the same point uh yasmine just mentioned the military had actually established control over certain domains in fact behind that democratic facade that i mentioned many political offices and 25 of parliamentary seats were reserved for army officers why is that no longer enough for the military i think that’s not the point here the point is that the military obviously for reasons unbeknownst to me felt the felt that these prerogatives were threatened um because of this landslide election victory in november 2020 and the fear this is only i can only speculate obviously on this but the fear seems to have been that also succeed and the nld would now make good on their promise on their election campaign promise to for charter change for constitutional change and also for the further demilitarization that’s that’s where i agree with jasmine further demilitarization of the administration of the civil service in the country and so on and so forth so here we see that some of those authoritarian prerogatives that the military basically safeguarded into the new democratic era were actually in the view of the military threatened so the facade was cracking sochi the state of emergency is supposed to last a year followed by a free and fair election i’m quoting there that was the announcement made by the military so what’s likely to happen during this 12-month period and can we expect the army to keep its promise that whoever wins the election following that will actually govern uh i think there are two different sides to the queen people do say that the military in myanmar has had a do keep up to their word um that they do fulfill even though those words of promises might be somewhat brutal they have fulfilled what they would do for example they have always held elections the last elections were re-held after they promised that however i also think that um [Music] the military this coup on monday has also proven just how irrational uh they are and what they um how little they are actually thinking of the well-being of the people of myanmar and i think everything on monday this very coup in itself just shows that the military is capable of very irrational behavior and that they cannot keep their promises and prioritize the people of myanmar let’s hear a few voices from the people of myanmar she has urged her supporters to show their opposition but so far the streets have been fairly quiet nonetheless the anger is palpable i feel the army assaulted the people when it staged this coup on the civilian government i’m terribly upset i have been crying all day i’ve been crying all day he’s the bad guy how could he do something like this yes mean the he in that last statement refers to the army’s commander-in-chief min when the national league for democracy the nld came into power in 2016 the general appeared in public with aung tsuchi he seemed satisfied to work with her so what changed for him personally some media are saying corruption may be partly at stake here is that right um well i think on this point we can really only speculate because the military the military property corps for us is is mainly a black box uh for observers i mean he has been the army chief of staff uh for a long time already um and he seemed for a while as you said to be comfortable with this power sharing arrangement with the military holding the security relevant ministries with uh dnld having the ministries and the functions that relate to the purely civilian domains such as labor policy economic policy well we know that he and his family are also involved in a lot of businesses uh hold monopolies over certain businesses have interests there um but i i think the main which perhaps also relates a bit to the question of whether the military is irrational i think what we really have to understand that this it’s it’s a military mindset you know it’s a military thinking it’s about having do can they still control the process in the way they want it and and this goes back to my own statement i mean they never wanted uh to have a liberal democracy what they wanted to have was what they call discipline flourishing democracy so you know are they still in control of the whole uh process and is also the military as the core is it intact as the unit is functioning are its interests not threatened so i think this is this this is what they’re really at let me ask you felix um to give us a sense of whether you think that many many people in myanmar share the opinion of of those voices that we heard in that report the fact is so far we’ve seen only isolated protests in response to monday’s coup but would you expect uh more opposition would you expect that to gain momentum i think the this these sentiments are widely shared that’s what i would assume at least uh given the the the data that’s available on this um and i think uh anger is mounting as well amongst the general population because of the little support the coup actually has and military interventions into politics generally have very very little support in in myanmar because of myanmar’s particular history however the question seems to be then and what’s next will there be some will it gain momentum will it be one way or the other via twitter facebook is has been shut down effectively as of today via twitter or other social media channels will there be some sort of organization of mass protests where people come out and force i think that’s what we need to to look out for would you say there’s anything behind the army’s claims that there were irregularities during the election has there been any proof of that from independent observers no so most international observers have said that the election was largely fair and transparent and also there are commentators there are kind of comparing uh the military’s reaction to um after how donald trump reacted after the election claiming it was rigged and it was a fraud and i think similarly the military is using this tactic to call to kind of stall time and uh to make to plan their next move and but however most international observers are saying that the it was over 75 to 80 percent that they voted for aung suchi’s democratic party yes man international observers have also been commenting uh with quite a bit of surprise about the charges against aung sang suchi as i mentioned she’s accused of having illegally imported 10 waukee talkies which seems laughable and hardly like a substantial basis for discrediting a nobel peace prize laura yet do these charges nonetheless have potentially serious consequences they do they obviously do i mean the law under which he was charged is really notorious it’s very weak and it was also used during military rule to imprison opponents uh that’s one thing um and actually i think the most important background is that once somebody is convicted of criminal charges he or she cannot run for office again and so i think this is the main strategy behind it that they want to keep her from running for office next time when elections are held and um yeah you were also asking whether there will whether elections will be held in a year’s time or whenever i think uh they might actually hold elections but um they will before they will create an uneven playing field in part of this is to bar aung san tsuji from running so the elections in november as has been mentioned were in fact uh won with a landslide by aung sang suchi’s national league for democracy despite some recent stains on her reputation the nobel peace prize lawyer who spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during her long resistance to military rule is revered at home in myanmar aung san tsuchi is respected around the world she’s been the recipient of numerous honors including the european parliament’s sakura prize and the nobel peace prize in 2010 her growing popularity combined with mounting international pressure finally forced myanmar’s military junta to lift her house arrest and grant democratic concessions five years later her nld party won an absolute majority in the first free elections su chi became the country’s minister of foreign affairs and de facto head of government but the military led by army chief men long retained its grip on power meaning that su chi remained a head of government at the mercy of the military as a result basic democratic freedoms like freedom of the press and protection for minorities remained elusive during her time in power is this the end of aung san tsuchi felix let me pass that last question right on to you is this the end of aung tsuchi the end of her ability to influence political developments in her country well i wouldn’t say so um i think that we must differentiate between the formal political process and there i agree with jasmine it very much looks like these trumped-up charges will quite possibly lead to her becoming essentially becoming barred from running for public office that includes actually the wider nld leadership she won’t be the only one that’s what i expect that will be charged on some walkie-talkie or what have you incident violating covet rules there will be some fabrications in that direction by the military government i’m pretty certain on that however outside of the formal political process process street politics um mobilization of the opposition and so on and so forth i don’t think she will disappear from the public mind anytime soon maybe that’s what the generals are hoping for but i can’t see that happening because the the newer history of of myanmar also with regards to her uh over a decade of house arrest shows that she was never really away in terms of of of wielding political influence however informal that was let me ask you a quick follow-up question relating again to your opening statement which referred to the illiberal and partly authoritarian transition to democracy did she actually achieve anything substantive for her country in terms of moving toward democracy or was she in the end essentially a marionette of the military no i wouldn’t say the letter is true i don’t think she was a marionette in any way of the military i think um at in certain aspects she’s actually she wasn’t anti-military she they were quarrels with the military leadership but for example if you look at the rohingya issue if you look at also the treatment of other ethnic minorities you can see that she shared some of the sentiments shall we say that are prevalent in the military but also in the wider population on how to deal with ethnic strife on how to deal with quote-unquote illegal immigrants because this was the title or the or the the reference used for the rohingya so there you can see i think some sort of coming together however essentially since 2012 since 2012 we have this almost zero-sum logic con conflict between the nld and onson suchi on the other on the one hand and the military on the other over who basically runs the state so i don’t think she was a marionette at all they were really butting heads and over the last year this has really hardened and from what we know communication actually between the military leadership and the civilian leadership led by angstroms that effectively had broken down for quite some time so tsuchi your opening statement mentioned human rights but she in the end was no unsullied advocate of human rights as just mentioned she actually denied that ethnic violence was being perpetrated by the military against rohingya muslim communities and she even traveled to the hague to defend her country against charges of genocide was that her own doing do you think or would she have been compelled to do so by the military so uh a lot of uh there’s a lot of speculation and different controversies around this topic but i think that aung suchi the genocide uh acts against the rohingya people um were committed primarily by the at the leadership of the military and as we have discussed before the military actually holds a lot more power they always have in myanmar and aung sang sushi some people have said she is kind of the pawn of the military to some extent and it’s always a question about compromise how far is she willing to to what extent can we fight for democracy at the hands of bloodshed so she’s um uh she has uh denied uh genocide against the rohingya people even though the united nations and the international criminal court they have found extensive evidence of widespread violence and genocidal acts against the rohingya people however to the extent that we know that aung suchi is personally responsible she is just the face of many people responsible for these acts of violence and um and this is i think the big debate also is where like to what are we willing to fight for democracy in what name because all these people rohingya people in rakhine state thousands have been killed and yes i think aung sangsuchi she was trying to keep the military and her party and the struggle for democracy on the level um and people say that if she had spoken sooner against laura hinja then maybe the coup would have happened sooner let me ask you yasmine uh about uh commander-in-chief min fang’s own implication or own involvement in the violence he has been condemned internationally including by the united nations human rights council and sanctioned for his role in the violence perpetrated against the rohingya so what would you say this coup which gives him more power will mean for muslim communities in myanmar well i think the situation uh will worsen what we have seen so far will worsen um i mean already when the ethnic cleansing against the rohingya was committed the civilian parts of the government did not have much control over what happened in rakhine state and sansoji is definitely to blame for not defending the rohingya for not coming out in defense of the rohingya for not defending human rights even though she was a human rights icon at the time but the mid the civilian parts of the government didn’t control the situation on the ground and it was the military who controlled the situation on the ground and it still does in rakhine state um and what what ad what’s added on now is that we have even less transparency uh of what’s actually happening in these areas even less oversight even though there was no there has never been proper civilian oversight to speak of in the first place felix looking at the clock don’t have a lot of time left so i would like to talk about the international community and what it can and should do in response to the coup the united nations security council met but took no action not least of course because of russian and chinese influence the u.s state department and the german cooperation ministry are thinking about cutting off support would that make a difference should countries even be considering sanctions against the military regime or would that simply push myanmar into the arms of china well um for start sanctions already do exist because of the rohingya crisis and have and and coming from the eu coming from the us um so that’s already the case i think it’s very likely that they will be extended and expanded in the wake of the military coup so for the sole reason that i think uh western governments won’t stand by in in the face of a military coup and and it will basically launch sanctions in response will they make a difference that’s a different question there my answer would be most likely not at least not in the short or in midterm perspective why because of if we look at the myanmar’s history and and especially the role of the military we see that has been for quite some time sort of immune to external pressures that includes sanctions the generals have actually did fairly okay have actually done fairly okay even during the heydays of myanmar essentially being a pariah state internationally through their business dealings with china through moving money to singapore to hong kong and other places so it really affects badly the general population especially the poor people in the country but it’s not the right angle i think to really put a lot of pressure on the military itself such your statement mentioned economic fallout from the coup in fact myanmar’s economy flourished as the generals were relaxing uh their grip do you think that will change will this deter foreign investment briefly if you would yes i think that now that myanmar is under coup for a year this will severely at least impact the tourism industry uh myanmar has come to open its doors to many tourists at one point myanmar had one of the highest percentage of newcoming tourists in the world and now that’s all shut down and tourists are probably they are too scared of the situation the security situation is not uh is not good for tourism at this time and a lot of people rely on the informal economy in tourism to make ends meet yes let me very quickly come back to our title uh death knell for democracy and ask whether you think whether you think the prospects for democracy medium to long term are now dead um for democracy yes i mean what i’m basically expecting to see is a situation like under the feinstein government uh when the military liberalized a bit and opened up the country a bit between 2010 and 2011 but remained fully in charge also of the political handlings of the country through its proxy party the usdp and i think we’re likely to see a similar scenario in the future after the military holds some form of unfair elections thank you thank you to all of you for being with us thanks to you out there for tuning in see you soon you

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