Fears of military coup in Myanmar are exaggerated
Current speculation reflects a misreading of the situation
Weeks of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and intense fighting between government troops and ethnic armed groups along the Chinese border have led some to suggest that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is facing a crisis of such proportions that the military might mount a coup d’etat.
Accusations by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and others of genocide against minority Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State, tensions within Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy, four non-lethal bombings in Yangon, and overall economic underperformance round out a picture of uncertainty about the government’s hold on power.
Some observers of Myanmar have long believed that the military creates crises as a “pretext” for expanding its power. Fears of a coup were raised after Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing in November made references to a “state of emergency” constitutional provision, leading to speculation whether the armed forces, or Tatmadaw, intends to oust Suu Kyi’s government.
These concerns were reinforced on Nov. 28, when the former ruling and military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party and 12 other minor parties called upon the president to convene the National Defense and Security Council. The military-dominated NDSC, with six active-duty generals wielding the majority vote among the 11 members, could consider declaring a state of emergency in Rakhine State amid a military crackdown on suspected Muslim militants. The president has not summoned it since the NLD came to power in April.
But these security-related statements can also be viewed as less a pretext for a return to military control than the expression of a fundamental commitment by the military and its allies to the constitution that put the NLD in power and protects its position there.
Statements by the commander-in-chief over the last six years have clearly shown a consistent dedication to — and pride in — the 2008 constitution, despite popular dissatisfaction with key provisions. A return to military rule would represent an unlikely reversal of his determination to sustain what he views as the legitimacy of the constitution.
Under the constitution, if the president determines that “local administrative … functions cannot be carried out” by the civilian government [such as during an attack by armed groups identified by the military as “enemies”] then legal grounds exist for the president to establish mixed government-military rule or military administration in these areas rather than conducting “clearance operations.”
Under a localized state of emergency, the military’s actions would be open to the scrutiny of — and some degree of accountability — by legitimately elected representatives in the national, or Union, parliament, which is not the case in a counterinsurgency “clearance” campaign, such as that being undertaken in Myanmar’s western and northern regions.
Amid the recent escalation of fighting in areas of northern Myanmar such as Shan and Kachin states, the lack of response by the NLD in taking measures to protect beleaguered populations has heightened concerns about a possible coup plan. The government’s silence is perplexing. Its public statements on the security situation are entirely aligned with the Tatmadaw in its views about the causes and consequences of the conflict in the west and the north of Myanmar, and of the “valiant” efforts of the military to save the country.
Suu Kyi appears disinterested in or feels incapable of limiting military authority over “clearance operations” while failing to gain the greater accountability that could be afforded by the charter’s state-of-emergency clauses. In Rakhine State, in the Muslim-dominated town of Maungdaw alone, the arrest of 575 suspects following the attacks on Oct. 9, six of whom have died in custody, would seem to justify the definition of an “emergency” that any democratically-elected government would want to address.
Source by: http://asia.nikkei.com/