The political situation of Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country sharing border with Bangladesh, has been very volatile for the last few months. It especially concerns Bangladesh as the long standing Rohingya issue still prevail between the two countries which was not settled for so many years. On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military detained officials from the elected government and announced a one-year state of emergency, effectively seizing control of the country’s governance.
The leader of the so-called democratic government of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, was uprooted from the power. It imposes a great risk for the region. Though the scenario is not expected for anyone, it seemed inevitable as the elected government under the leadership of Suu Kyi was regretfully ineffective in securing human rights in Myanmar. The Myanmar military, during the Suu Kyi’s regime, has gotten away with shameless and barbaric abuse of the Rohingyas of the country’s Rakhine state. In 2017 the army slaughtered thousands of Rohingyas in massacres. Not only the Muslim-majority Rohingyas but also other ethnic non-Muslim tribes faced barbaric abuse in Myanmar.
As State Counsellor, if Suu Kyi spoke about the Rohingyas it was only in terms of terrorism and the killing of security personnel. She had nothing to say of the thousands of innocent men, women and children killed and millions turned homeless. It seemed political convenience dominated her principles completely. Though many did not expect her to defy the Army or endanger Myanmar’s inexperienced democracy, but none did expect her lips to remain so firmly sealed.
The world viewed Suu Kyi’s attitude to the Rohingyas as a demeaning compromise. Once admired, she was now loathed. At home it was very different though. The majority she won in the 2020 elections was even greater than the landslide five years ago. And after the military threw out her government and put her under arrest, the admiration her people have for her seems to know no limits.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have condemned the military coup in Myanmar but say they do not feel sorry for de facto leader Suu Kyi’s removal from power. This month’s military coup in Myanmar has made an already calamitous situation for Rohingya refugees even worse. The coup is obviously good for no one. But for the Rohingya, the risk is heightened as this is the military regime responsible for the atrocities over the years.
Most recently, in 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh as the result of a brutal counterinsurgency campaign launched by the Myanmar military, in collaboration with the local fundamental Buddhists. And a 1982 law it enacted denies the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority, the right to hold citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even if their families have lived there for generations. The military later faced allegations of genocide in a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Suu Kyi was one of the most respected leaders worldwide and was considered as an uncompromising icon of democracy and human rights. She even won Nobel Peace Prize. But her initial silence and later her justifying the brutal actions of military over the Rohingyas were criticized heavily globally. She went on to defend the military against accusations of genocidal crimes, including murder and gang rape, at the International Court of Justice in 2019.
Suu Kyi portrayed that, being in power and position was her greatest priority and she was not ready to live up to her own principles. Now, Suu Kyi is having the taste of her own medicine. To remain in power, she kept the military unleashed and tried to cover all their misdeeds. She did not unfold the brutality of her own military in front of the world, which she should have done as a woman of principles. Now, the same military has betrayed her with the February 1 coup.
Aung San Suu Kyi was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD). The army said it had carried out the detentions in response to ‘election fraud’, handing power to military chief Min AungHlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year. Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar since the military seized control. Around 50 protesters have been killed so far though the real figure cannot be confirmed. Many journalists and protestors were arrested. An NLD leader under detention was killed. There is total chaos in Myanmar right now.
Myanmar’s military rulers even fired the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he called for help to remove the army from power. In an emotional speech, he said no-one should co-operate with the military until it handed back power to the democratically elected government. As the UN did not recognize the current military junta in power, Kyaw Moe Tun still remains in his position.
Though the protesters in Myanmar are fighting hard to release Suu Kyi and restore democracy, they should realize few facts. Suu Kyi cannot be an option to carry on the flag of democracy. Compromising human rights and brutal violence over the minorities disqualifies her for that position as clearly, she had forgotten her principles and tried to run the government collaborating with the military. Along with barbaric crackdown on the Rohingyas, she has been guilty of allowing oppressions over the journalists of several international media. This violent protest against the army should not be motivated for the release of a compromised leader, who fall victim for her own decisions.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman fought against a much stronger force along with the people throughout his political career to lead Bangladesh towards its independence in 1971. Even after becoming President of independent Bangladesh, he continued is fight against issues like corruption to ensure people’s welfare. He never compromised under threats and had to sacrifice his life in 1975 along with most of his family members. This is a great example of holding onto the principles. His eldest daughter, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina also faced several attacks but uncompromisingly fought for the nation’s welfare. Under her leadership, Bangladesh recorded huge development and such leadership is now required in Myanmar.
As the Myanmar Army and Suu Kyi claimed, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) had been active as a rebel group in Myanmar as they were fighting for the rights of the Rohingyas, which was taken out by the Myanmar government especially the military rulers long time ago. Bangladesh also had such rebel groups in the 3 districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts – Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari.
When PM Hasina came into power for the first time in 1996, she provided the issue utmost importance. Through the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord, a political agreement and peace treaty signed between the Bangladeshi Government and the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, the political organization that controlled the Shanti Bahini militia in 1997 she ensured peace and rights of the hill tracts people.
On the other hand, Suu Kyi allowed the Myanmar army to conduct ethnic cleaning against the Rohingyas claiming to control the terrorist acts by ARSA. That is why, many of the awards and recognition were taken away from her as a message of disapproval of her acts by the global community while PM Hasina received huge recognition by sheltering thousands of Rohingyas on humanitarian ground despite having severe challenges.
The Myanmar protesters and other general people should now look for new democratic leadership. Suu Kyi was weak and selfish as she depicted her cravings for power only during her reign. Sacrificing lives for a selfish and oppressing leader is not justified. We just hope, the Myanmar people realize that. Suu Kyi is nothing but a fallen angel.
As close neighbour of Myanmar, who has been sheltering millions of their oppressed citizens for several years despite being a country of huge population, we hope a principle and people-oriented democratic leadership comes to power in Myanmar. If so, the millions of Rohingyas will have a future and may even come out of the traumatic experiences of the crackdown over their near and dear ones. May humanity, principle and democracy win in Myanmar.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Research Centre (DRC)