World, Asia - Pacific

'Myanmar coup may end Suu Kyi’s political career’

Burmese expert says coup will also make Rohingya repatriation 'actually impossible' as military to 'play hardball'

Mehmet Ozturk and Sorwar Alam   | 01.02.2021
'Myanmar coup may end Suu Kyi’s political career’ BANGKOK, THAILAND - FEBRUARY 01: A demonstrator holds a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi and General Aung San during a protest outside the Embassy of Myanmar in Bangkok, Thailand on February 01, 2021. Burmese demonstrators gathered in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on the day Myanmar's military detained State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi and declared a state of emergency while seizing the power in the country for a year after losing the election against the National League for Democracy (NLD). ( Guillaume Payen - Anadolu Agency )


Myanmar's military seizing power by ousting its elected government, led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, maybe the end of her political career, according to a Burmese exile figure.

"I think this may be the end of Aung San Suu Kyi's political career," Maung Zarni, a Burmese scholar, dissident, and expert on genocide documentation based in London, told Anadolu Agency in a virtual interview.

Since the military realized that as long as Suu Kyi leads the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, “they cannot expect the Burmese public to vote for a military proxy,” he added.

The military, officially known as Tatmadaw, after days of escalating tension with the civilian government, took power and declared a one-year state of emergency by detaining Myanmar President Win Myint, Suu Kyi, and other members of the ruling party.

Suu Kyi served as the de facto leader of Myanmar from 2016 to 2021, following a long struggle for democracy in the south Asian nation that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. However, her silence on the Rohingya massacre and defense of the military's genocide at the international court drew harsh criticism across the globe.

Orwellian coup 

In the last two elections – in 2015 and 2020 – the military realized that they "could not play this election game with Suu Kyi," who enjoys overwhelming political support from the public.

Zarni termed the military power seizure as “a textbook Orwellian coup.”

“Because the coup makers, the Burmese generals frame the coup as an act to protect and defend the integrity of the democratic process,” he explained

The immediate consequences of the coup could be "the dissolution of the ruling NLD party" and the demolition of "Suu Kyi’s state councilor position," Zarni aruged.

He argued that the military is making this coup a “constitutional coup in defense of democratic transition.”

“The Constitution is their golden swan. It gives them an egg every day of their political life. They are not going to abolish the Constitution. They will use the Constitution to abolish anything they see as obstacles to their total control of politics and the economy.”

He also said the military might abolish the parliament. There is no expectation of any public reaction or resistance within the military to this coup.

“I don't believe that the Burmese people are going to risk their lives for military discipline flourishing democracy.”

Zarni also expressed doubt about the “so-called democratic process” in Myanmar. “How can you call the political system and the political leadership of our constituency, and the military leadership undertaking democratic reforms, when they are committing a full-fledged genocide against the Rohingya minority?”

He noted the coup has ended “promoting this big lie that Burma is a fragile democracy under the Suu Kyi’s leadership," using the former name of Myanmar.

Regional players not to lift a finger 

In the case of an undemocratic act in Myanmar, Zarni underlined that no regional actor will play any vital role in establishing democracy there.

Because the majority of governments in Southeast Asia, 8 out of 10, with the exception of Indonesia or Malaysia, are “authoritarian regimes,” he went on to say. “Then why would they care about another authoritarian regime next door.”

While talking about two heavyweights in the region -- China and India -- Zarni said neither New Delhi nor Beijing will lift a single finger. He recalled China’s “genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province and never pretends to be a democracy,” underlining that India is also “moving in a far-right, authoritarian direction” as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led “government attacking Muslims and minorities.

Western governments “pay lip service to democratization and human rights around the world.

“We really do not have a lot of liberal democratic countries that would take any meaningful action.”

“The international community so far failed to take action to end the genocide against the Rohingya in Burma. They can be expected not to raise a real finger to reverse the course of anti-democratic coup,” he said. 

Rohingya repatriation impossible ​​​​​​​

Regarding the ongoing fragile talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees who fled military brutality in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar and took shelter in southeastern Bangladesh, Zarni said the “genocide against the Rohingya has been a strategy of the military since the late 1970s.”

“The military has accomplished its genocidal aims. Two or three million Rohingya are scattered around the world.”

“Now it’s important for Bangladesh to understand that they no longer have any leverage with Burma,” he opined.

He anticipated that the Tatmadaw will "play hardball" with both the public as well as the international community. "The military feels very much protected by multiple international players such as Russia, China, and, to a lesser extent, India."

However, he noted that the case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice for its atrocities against Rohingya is not going to be affected by the coup. “Because the court is dealing with Myanmar as a state party. It's going to go ahead… This could be bad for Myanmar as a state.”​​​​​​

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