Dr Ronan Lee answers questions on the current situation in Myanmar, following the recent military coup. He is the the author of Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis and a visiting scholar at Queen Mary University of London’s International State Crime Initiative. He is also a former member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly and former parliamentary secretary.
What has happened?
“There’s been a military coup… on February 1, [the military] arrested the civilian administration of Aung San Suu Kyi. Her National League for democracy was re-elected in a landslide just last November. The military claimed the election had unfair elements to it and that the results shouldn’t shouldn’t be accepted.”
Is there any truth to their claims?
“Every time the military’s proxy party has faced the people, they’ve been rejected overwhelmingly. [They] won less than 8% of the available seats. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won upwards of 80% of the available seats. So to suggest that there was some amount of unfairness in the campaign really misses the point about the attitude of ordinary people in Myanmar towards the military. They don’t want them back.”
What has the public reaction been?
“There’s been millions of people on the street. Every city, town and village has had protests over the last 10 days. Everyone who can protest against the military has done so. Water cannons, plastic bullets, and live ammunition were used against peaceful protesting civilians but they keep turning up because they want the military out of politics.”
What has the international reaction been?
“President Biden announced a series of sanctions targeted at military figures in Myanmar and I’d expect the UK, EU, and others to follow suit in the coming days. The Chinese government had a really good relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian administration. They will not be happy with the instability that’s been injected into its near neighbour through this military coup. The military is finding itself isolated internationally.”Embed from Getty Images
What does this mean for the Rohingya crisis?
“It’s always bad news for the Rohingya whenever the military have had political power and influence in Myanmar. So that would explain why we’ve seen solidarity shown by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and among the diaspora. There’s been some indications that the protesters in the streets are now understanding that they’ve been misled about the Rohingya.”
What will happen next?
“The military will, fairly aggressively, try to put down the protests. They’ve united every ethnic, religious and social group against them. That means that to put down the protests would take extreme violence, and there may be elements of the military that would be unwilling to do that.”