As predicted, the situation in Myanmar has gone from bad to worse after the military coup on February 1. The people of that nation have been infuriated by the renewed incarceration of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and members of the National League of Democracy party which had swept the recently-concluded general elections, and the taking over of all powers by the military junta. They have declared a veritable war against the army and the police, coming out in thousands to the streets and engaging in a cat and mouse tussle. Yet, in every way, it has been an unequal ‘battle’, with the heavily armed government troops, who had shown in the past their capacity for savagery in the manner they decimated the Rohingyas, not hesitating to use live bullets against the unarmed demonstrators. The crackdown on March 14 had been particularly brutal, with around four dozen being killed, thereby adding to the scores gunned down earlier. The acting leader of Myanmar’s parallel civilian government, Mahn Win Khaing Than, who is in hiding along with some senior officials of the NLD, has promised to pursue a ‘revolution’ to overturn the military government. Yet, as the tragedy unfolds, it has become obvious that it would not be possible for the Myanmar people to overthrow the junta unless aided by strong and effective action from the international community.
This is where a definitive stand by India is required, which would entail a clear condemnation of the barbarism being inflicted by on the helpless people, and not the vague ‘concern’ that we have expressed so far. India’s hesitation in condemning is understandable given the blunder it committed in the past. In 1962, the military under General Ne Win had carried out the first coup in Myanmar. Almost three decades later the junta was coerced into holding multi-party elections in 1990, which was won by Suu Kyi. But it refused to let go of power, annulled the election, and placed Suu Kyi under house arrest, in which she remained for two decades. India, initially, had condemned the junta and supported Suu Kyi, which opened up her neighbour to enhanced influence of China. This had induced India, for strategic reasons, to disown Suu Kyi and hobnob with the junta. But international sanctions and popular internal protests induced Myanmar’s military again to take steps to usher in civilian rule which resulted in Suu Kyi being put back in the saddle and India losing the empathy it had with her. However, these are different times and the burning down of Chinese factories indicate that the new generation of Myanmar knows who is doing what! Under these circumstances a strong condemnatory stance by India against the junta would bolster the morale of the Myanmar people while reasserting her own democratic credentials.