Coup in Myanmar: Derailment of Democracy

Source: The Hindu, Indian Express

Gs2: India and its Neighborhood- Relations.

Synopsis: Coup in Myanmar is an outcome of many unresolved differences between the democratically elected government and the army. It has many consequences.


  1. Myanmar is a partially democratic country. The democratic government led by Aung San Suu Kyi shared half of its power with Myanmar’s Military.
  2. On February 1, the Myanmar army captured power by declaring an emergency.
  3. The military justified its action by citing the reason that there was “terrible fraud in the voter list” in the recently held Parliamentary election. Since the Election Commission failed to settle the matter, the army declared an emergency.
  4. Similar incidents of overtaking the democratic government by forcing military rule has taken place in 1962, 1988 and 1990.

Is it a military coup or an Emergency?

The following arguments prove that the incident that took place on Feb 1 is a military coup and not an emergency.

  • First, electoral issues needed to be addressed and resolved by relevant authorities, not the military leadership.
  • Second, Myanmar Constitution empowers the President to proclaim an emergency, in consultation with the National Defence and Security Council. However, neither the Council met nor the presidential consent was obtained.

What were the reasons behind this Coup?

Many unresolved differences between the democratic government and Myanmar’s army, led to this coup.

  • First, Ideological differences:
      • The army feels that it’s power should not be undermined. As it is the one that secured independence, defended the country against secession, and ensured stability and development.
      • Whereas the government has been a strong supporter of democracy. In this system, the army should be completely apolitical.
  • Second, differences over different socio-politico- economic issues. For example, differences over ethnic reconciliation, constitutional reform, the Rohingya issue, and the China policy.
  • Third, Fight for power:
      • Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s was willing to become Myanmar’s President. He was also about to retire in July.
      • However, Ms. Suu Kyi was opposed to it, and she doesn’t want to extend his tenure. Presumably, the coup guarantees an indefinite extension of tenure. It will also help him to retain the Power in his hands.
  • Fourth, Role of China: The Chinese Communist Party shares a very close association with the Myanmar army for decades. The Increasing Popularity of the Democratic government over Myanmar army would have been detrimental to Chinese interest in Myanmar.

What are the Consequences?

Impact on Rohingya’s:

  • Rohingya’s are Predominantly Muslim population who are facing Ethnic violence in Myanmar.
  • Currently, a million of them are living in Bangladesh as refugees due to persecution in Myanmar, and are waiting to be repatriated.
  • Though the Myanmar army was against repatriation, recently the democratic government of Myanmar and Bangladesh held talks for repatriation. These efforts, will definitely be impacted by the current coup.

Impact on Democracy:

  • With great efforts the Suu Kyi’s administration has nurtured the growth of democracy even in the deeper roots of Myanmar. Now the coup is a step back for Myanmar’s democracy.

Way forward for India

Though India is a torch-bearer of Democracy, the government is also committed to the policy of non-interference in another state’s internal affairs. Therefore, India should cautiously balance its principles, values, interests while dealing with Myanmar based on geopolitical realities and national interest.

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