It has been more than two months since Myanmar’s military staged a coup and removed the elected National League for Democracy government, but the military junta, known officially as the State Administration Council (SAC), has yet to return the country to normalcy. Anti-coup, anti-military protests persist daily across the nation, and the demands for a federal democratic constitution and a new army to overthrow the junta grow louder and more coordinated with each passing day.
On the other hand, the coup council continues to terrorize the whole country, by brutally shooting protesters in the cities and with almost daily air strikes against villagers in Karen and states. The now-terrorist military council has not yet fallen, but it is failing miserably in establishing its legitimacy and authority to govern.
On the media front, even as the military coup council has revoked the broadcast licenses of private media organizations including Mizzima and the Democratic Voice of Burma, it has lost its ability to reach out to and influence the public through its television channels, since the public turned to social media and shortwave radio in order to gain information from domestic and international sources. The public has zero trust in any media controlled by the SAC. It has also been kept off various social media platforms because of its lies and propaganda.
Over the last two months, the junta has released order after order with no practical effect on the ground; banks are not yet open and shops and schools remain closed. The SAC appears to be isolated in Naypyidaw; there is no functioning governance and administration, and the only military authority has come at gunpoint.
Desperate, the SAC has resorted to violence to secure compliance with its orders. For example, it has begun to threaten to arrest the executives of banks if they don’t reopen their doors Dismissal threats have also been issued for civil servants who refuse to return to work. The junta has ordered striking railway workers to vacate their public housing quarters. These are all signs of desperation and not having a way out in the difficult situation.
The military, or Tatmadaw, is the only institution in the country that has the privilege to officially bear arms. Its job is to protect, not to bully and terrorize, the people. Instead, the military has hijacked the country’s politics and cruelly punished the citizens who refuse to accept their attempt to rule by force. The generals are now widely termed “terrorists” by the people of Myanmar. The trust between the military and the people, never very strong, is now completely broken and irreparable. It lacks any degree of legitimacy and by committing mass atrocities against the people the generals have further delegitimized themselves. At this point, the military is no longer redeemable. It must be completely dismantled, if not destroyed. All the training institutions within the current set-up must be overhauled or rebuilt. It needs a new spirit, a new life, and a new identity.
Determined, the ordinary citizens of the country, especially the youth – or Generation Z, as many now call them – keep returning to the streets, refusing to bow to the unjust orders of the junta. Having experienced a decade of increasing openness and freedom, these young people are done with military dictatorship; many are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the country’s future. Despite the brutal shooting death of nearly 600 peaceful protesters since the coup, there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis. So long as they are willing to disobey the unjust laws, the military regime’s attempt to rule by force is not going to work.
Meanwhile, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), formed by elected parliamentarians, has announced the abolition of military-drafted 2008 Constitution and released a two-part Federal Democracy Charter that includes a political roadmap and lays out the key principles on which the new constitution will be based. The charter also includes a chapter on “formation of a new federal union army,” which is what the ethnic nationalities have been calling for over the last 70 years to replace the abusive Tatmadaw with a diverse security force under civilian command. In addition, the CRPH says that a new National Unity Government, hopefully more diverse and inclusive, will be announced in early April. These are all encouraging developments that the people of Myanmar heartily welcome, and it is hoped that the international community, most importantly the governments of neighboring countries, will do the same in respect of the Myanmar people’s quest for federalism and democracy.
It is hard to say when the military junta will fall, but surely it is failing in all fronts. With the new level of political awareness among the new generation of different nationalities and the recently announced Federal Democracy Charter, one can only hope that the people of Myanmar will be able to redeem themselves, restore democracy, and lead the way to a new dawn for a long-suffering country.