August 19, 2016

Myanmar’s twin institutions

EVEN a glance at the history of our country is enough to reveal that insurgency and independence are twin events, making governments and militaries twin institutions. Even after Myanmar gained its independence from British colonial rule, the insurgencies of the White Flag communists and the Red Flag communists continued to struggle with the new government. In 1949, these groups held vast tracts of countryside. Rural people were terrorised by the civil war, which continues to this day in the form of ethnic armed conflict.
Over the years, Myanmar’s army, navy and air force put up an effective defence against the insurgencies and fought to save the country from collapse into anarchy. At times, the military has secured broad acceptance and heartfelt recognition by the people its role in national politics.
However, as an old maxim goes, misfortunes never come alone. Years of poor management resulted in a sluggish economy, triggering mass demonstrations against U Ne Win’s government across the country. Accordingly, the attempt to overthrow the government in 1988 was followed by a period of anarchy, prompting the military to seize power on 18 September of that year.
Judging from these events, the role of the army is deeply entrenched in national politics. But this does not necessarily mean its presence in politics is guaranteed or eternal.
The government and the military may be siblings, but they are not the same entity. For the moment, the presence of the military in parliament should be viewed as a necessary evil until peace is restored.


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