The American magazine Foreign Affairs published a article by a lengthy Burmese historian in which he dealt with historical narrative and political analysis the various crises plaguing the country of Myanmar in Southeast Asia.
The author of the article, Thant Myint U, tried to answer a question regarding the repercussions of the collapse of the state. Read also With increasing repression, Myanmar’s revolution against the military coup slips into armed confrontations UN warns of ‘human rights catastrophe’ amid escalating violence in Myanmar They call him crazy.. Learn about the detention of political prisoners in Myanmar
Thant – born in the United States and grandson of former Secretary-General of the United Nations U Thant – began his article by noting that Myanmar (formerly Burma) had reached the point of no return, the military coup that took place last February with the intent of bringing about a “surgical” shift in power within the framework Constitutionalism, it unleashed a revolutionary energy that would be almost impossible to contain.
manifestations of collapse
Thant said that over the past four months, protests and strikes have continued despite more than 800 deaths and nearly 5,000 arrests. On the first of last April, elected members of Parliament – from the National League for Democracy led by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and leaders from other parties and political organizations – announced a “national unity government” in defiance of the authority recently established by the military group in country.
As fighting between the military and armed ethnic groups intensified during April and May, a new generation of pro-democracy fighters attacked army positions and administrative offices across the country.
The military clique can consolidate its rule in the next year, but this will not, according to Thant Myint U, lead to the stability of the country, as the urgent economic and social challenges are so complex, along with hostility to the army so deep that it is impossible for any isolated and outdated institution to manage it.
At the same time, the revolutionary forces will not be able to deal a “fatal blow” to the army anytime soon, and with the continued closure of the horizon, the economy will collapse, and armed violence will exacerbate, which will result in waves of asylum in neighboring countries such as China, India and Thailand.
Myanmar will become – as the author of the article stresses – a failed state, and new powers will exploit this failure, developing the trade in methamphetamine narcotics that generate millions of dollars in annual revenue, cutting down forests that are home to a number of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world, and expanding wildlife trafficking networks, including Including those that are believed to be responsible for the outbreak of the “Covid-19” virus pandemic in neighboring China.
Freedom from nationalism
In his article, the Burmese historian believes that the work must now focus on reducing the duration of the state’s failure, protecting the poorest and most vulnerable segments of the population, and embarking on building a new state and a more free, just and prosperous society.
Myanmar will not be able to become a peaceful country in the future unless it rests on a completely different principle of its national identity based on liberation from its previous ethno-nationalism and on a transformed political economy.
What the writer calls “the weight of history” makes reaching that desired end the only acceptable result, while acknowledging that it is a daunting task. The alternative, however, will not be a dictatorship, “which can no longer achieve stability, but rather is a perpetuation of state failure and a possible perpetuation of a state like Myanmar engulfed in violence and chaos in the heart of Asia for decades to come.”
Thant considers Myanmar to be a product of British colonialism and was called “Burma” at the time, as it was administered by a system of government based on ethnic stratification. He adds that modern Burmese politics came into being a century ago, and its core was rooted in ethnic nationalism represented in the Buddhist ethnic identity of the Burmese speakers.
After gaining independence in 1948, Myanmar, “Emerging Burma”, attempted to integrate non-Burma peoples – such as the Karen and Shan peoples – but within the framework of Burmese ethnic and cultural superiority.
However, those peoples who were classified as “outsiders” – as happened to the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who were expelled to Bangladesh in 2016 and 2017 – have worsened their situation.
Over the past decades, the Myanmar nation-building project has been doomed to failure, leaving behind an “environment for endemic armed conflict and a country that has never been perfect”.
The Foreign Affairs article notes that the Myanmar army has always positioned itself as the “lord” of this ethnic nationalism, and is the only army in the world that has fought relentlessly since World War II against the British, the Japanese and then – after independence – against a variety of enemies, including the Chinese backed national armies. From Washington in the fifties of the last century.
a bit of history
In his article, the Burmese historian listed aspects of the stages that Burma and, later, Myanmar went through throughout its history. He said that the successive civilian and military governments that ruled the country since independence adopted socialism in response to the economic disparities that characterized the colonial era.
The article notes that over the past years, Western countries have begun to impose sanctions in solidarity with the emerging movement calling for democracy. Meanwhile, a Beijing-backed communist rebellion collapsed in the northeast, making trade with China possible for the first time in decades, with Burmese capitalism linked to the giant industrial revolution in neighboring China.
In 2008, a hurricane killed 140,000 people. The people’s lack of land ownership, the cyclone and other environmental hazards related to climate change exacerbated the phenomenon of migration from the west to the east of the country, from the ethnic Burmese lowlands to the capital Yangon and the highlands inhabited by minorities, and from everywhere in the country to Thailand where about 3 to the 4 million unskilled workers of Myanmar today.
In the face of that migration, the ethnic demographic structure in Myanmar was mixed with the nabeel, to separate the identity from the place. Ethnic nationalism had no ideological opponents. In the 1990s, army commanders changed the name Burma, which has been used by Europeans since the 16th century and includes the area around the Irrawaddy Valley, to Myanmar, a name with an ethnic characteristic associated with the majority of the Burmese-speaking population.
In the midst of these political tensions, the economy has reached a critical point, the “Covid-19” outbreak has made matters worse, and the authorities’ response was weak at best, as they did not provide actual monetary support to the most affected groups.
The author of the article goes on to confirm that the internal explosion of the economy is what will turn Myanmar into a failed state, and gives examples with numbers to demonstrate this.
He added that the people who suffer the most from the economic and health deterioration in Myanmar are always the landless villagers, the farmers living in the highlands, the migrant workers, the Muslim Rohingya, the people from South Asian countries and the internally displaced.
In his article, the historian concludes by claiming that the crisis that is narrowing its episodes may be an opportunity to bring about fundamental change, noting that the current efforts of elected parliamentarians, civil society organizations and protest networks across the country, aimed at breaking down ethnic differences represent a radical transformation that the democratic authority could not achieve during the decade the missed.
Thant believes that there is no “magic bullet” or one set of policies capable of resolving the crisis in Myanmar, because it was a crisis that was not the product of the February military coup, but rather the result of decades of failure to build a state and economy, and a society characterized by injustice in the eyes of many.