Red Lines host Anya Parampil speaks with Vijay Prashad, historian and Chief Correspondent for Globetrotter, about the military's recent takeover in Myanmar. "The first thing that people should know is that Aung San was the state councilor based on an agreement made between the military in Myanmar, the opposition movements that had been built after the Great Saffron Revolution, the protest movement of people who were young at that time - now 13, 14 years ago. It was an agreement also which included western capitals, including the United States of America, the Obama administration played a role in it later, but it was there, which enabled Aung San to become the state councilor based on a constitution which the military the military had written, the 2008 Constitution. That constitution is an odd one."
On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military—known as the Tatmadaw—invoked Article 417 of the 2008 constitution, dismissed State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and arrested her and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Condemnation of the coup was swift, although there would be reason for hesitancy in the reaction: Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been the face of the democracy movement until her release from house arrest in 2010, ruined her reputation when she came to the International Court of Justice in 2019 to defend her country’s genocide against the Rohingya people. No longer is Aung San Suu Kyi the unalloyed symbol of democracy and human rights.
In September 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar, where the military was waging a brutal offensive against them that the United Nations has described as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
By Eric Margolis for Common Dreams - Few people have ever heard of Myanmar’s Rohingya people. Not many more could find Myanmar on a map – particularly after its name was changed some years ago from Burma to Myanmar. The exception is Burma’s sainted lady leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who became a worldwide celebrity and Nobel Prize winner. The media loved her, a sort of Burmese Joan of Arc versus its brutal military junta. But now, tragically, the Rohingya are headline news thanks to Myanmar’s brutal ethnic cleansing of one of the world’s most abused, downtrodden people. Almost as revolting is the world’s failure to take any action to rescue the Rohingya from murder, rape, arson and ethnic terrorism. In recent weeks, over 270,000 Rakhines have been driven from their homes in Rakhine State in western Myanmar and now cower in makeshift refugee camps just across the border in Bangladesh in the midst of monsoon season. Rohingya have lived for centuries in Burma/Myanmar. Some of their ancestors may have been brought as coolies or indentured laborers from neighboring East Bengal (today Bangladesh) by the British rulers of the region. Once again, the British Empire was behind yet another world problem. Burma is a hodgepodge of peoples and ethnicities. The largest, about 60%, are Buddhist Burmans, but there are many other important groups like Karen, Kachin, Chin, Mon and Shan.
The legacy of the brutal Burmese regime that kept glamorous challenger Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and its tightly controlled society closed off to outside influences had seemed poised for real change. Just a month ago, as the early sunlight spread across the Bagan plain lighting up hundreds of ancient pagodas and warming up a sizable gaggle of tourists (including myself) perched high on one of the structures to witness the sunrise, it seemed clear that a new day was dawning. As part of the inaugural Beautiful Rising workshop, we had gathered in Yangon the week before to hear stories of resistance and begin to tease out the shared lessons that these events held for frontline activists.
Whether the US Agenda is War on an Arms Race, the US Peace Movement Should be Concerned. While the Middle East teeters on the brink of another prolonged conflict that would engender some form of US involvement, the Obama’s administration’s shift away from the region and toward East Asia is easier said than done. Though the “Pivot to Asia” policy of the Obama administration may not be stealing all the headlines, US military presence around the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca is quietly building up, giving rise to increased American muscle in Southeast Asia. Obama announced the pivot policy during a visit to Australia in 2011, declaring a fully equipped 2,500-strong Marine task force operating from Darwin by 2016. The pivot to Asia is anything but an empty catchphrase, as the US Air Force is beginning to bolster its presence in bases in Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines, with plans to move 60 percent of US warships to the region by 2020. It’s no secret that these developments are the Pentagon’s response to China’s ever-increasing military and economic clout, and Uncle Sam is boldly sending the message that he’s coming to town. Washington’s objective is to build a Cold War-style security ring around China by deepening military partnerships with American allies in Southeast Asia, while broadening its capacity to police vital trade and energy chokepoints.