22.02.2021: The People’s Peaceful Veto

Mandalay, 22.02.2021. Credit: Messenger Service (private)

History is the record of human behaviour.

Today, most people of Myanmar vetoed the military’s power seizure of three weeks ago. Undeterred and calmly, the announced general strike brought hundreds of thousands, if not millions, onto the country’s streets. Beyond banging pans and pots at night for driving out evil spirits, a “tech-savvy” generation Z had smartly organized an peaceful protest within the framework of Myanmar’s “Civil Disobedience Movement”. It is a hallmark of Burmese civil society to be extremely well-connected, even more so with the help of digitals instruments and support. The result is a huge “No to the military”, and this No is probably underpinned by the solidarity of social media followers around the globe.

Those who were addressed by the country-wide protests remained silent. State media like The Global New Light of Myanmar have not mentioned the protests with a single word.

The underlying fear of the Burmese military’s reaction “known for its ability and willingness to shoot its own population” has proved unsubstantial. However, in Nyi Pyi Taw and Mandalay wounded and killed people have been seen in the days before the police was involved.

On February 1, the country’s generals had seized power “the traditional way”, by a coup, unable to win the power back by electoral vote. In doing so, he “took the world by surprise” (ICG, 16.02.2021). Hence, scenarios how Supreme Commander Min Aung Hlaing would become president the constitutional way remained theoretical as well as any “Plan B of the military”.

The chief of the quickly created State Administrative Council (SAC) is a protegée of the last junta’s chief (1992-2011), Than Shwe. Min Aung Hlaing, covinced, that he and his fellow officers would surely be more apt to steer Myanmar through any challenges than any civilian government. Consequently, he simply grabbed power by invoking the 2008 Constitution and citing voters’ fraud. As for legal ramifications, there are lawyers in Myanmar who plan to charge him for high treason. Additionally, there will be academic research on potential constitutional mechanisms having backed that power seizure.

Anyway, the military sketched their plans without the people of Myanmar, usually not acknowleding the Tatmadaw’s (Burmese military) self-proclaimed role of “the guardian of the nation” despite the military’s historical function within the Burmese political system.

Since three weeks, Myamar’s government and governance affairs has been directed by the SAC. Before the eyes of the country and those of the world, key members of the National League of Democracy (NLD), including the State Counselor and the President have been detained, offices and the headquarters of the NLD have been raided. Political prominence has vanished from the political stage as if it was puppets in the theatre of Mandalay.

More was in stock. Legal interventions into civil liberties, the creating of a massively critized Cyber Law, the return of the “Amendment of the Ward – and village Administration Law” reactivating overnight guest-registration. Thus, for the moment, the media works on shaky grounds.

To object these changes, the protesters set posters like “We can’t live in a dark era again” – “Please, Save Our Leaders, Our Future, Our Hope” – “We Are Protesting Peacefully” – “Save Myanmar”. On November 8, 2020, most of the people voted under Covid-19 circumstances for the NLD. Now, there is a deep sense of betrayal, which in a psychological sense means the violation of a firmly held set of beliefs. As a result fierce resistance is around.

On August 26, 1988, in the aftermath of the student’s inpired uprising of 08.08.1988, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi held a speech at Shwedagon Pagoda. In polite words, she then said: “May I appeal to the armed forces to become a force in which the people can place their trust and reliance.”

It is part of Myanmar’s democratic transition that the military has remained unimpressed by those words, and it is obviously unimpressed by democratic voting results.

Time will show, if it will remain unimpressed by the people’s reaction to such behaviour, too.

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