On February 1, a coup d'etat took place in Myanmar (former Burma), one of the key Southeast Asian states. The country has declared a year-long state of emergency. President Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the country's ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party were detained by the military, with General Min Aung Hlaing now having all the power in his hands. Why did the military overthrow the country's legitimate leaders, how will the events in Myanmar affect politics of certain countries across the world, and what does this coup mean to Russia? We will try to answer these questions in our article.
And before you ask, the military discontent catalyst was the parliamentary election of November 8, 2020, where the NLD party won 83% of the seats in the Assembly of the Union. The military, who support the Union Solidarity and Development Party, appeared utterly dissatisfied with this election outcome, began to scout out falsifications and did find them. In particular, the military drafted some 20 reports to describe cases with one and the same voters being on the lists of several polling stations at once, the registration of underage voters or those without identity cards. They detected about 8.6 million violations of this kind. A significant figure given Myanmar's total of 30 million voters.
It should be noted here that the transition of power to the military became possible after a meeting of the National Defense and Security Council being the country's constitutional body that stands above the president and other government agencies. At that meeting, the military decided to assume power into their own hands in order to eventually hold a new election under their control. It is interesting to emphasize that since the country's Constitution secures such a right of the military, the Myanmar developments were formally not a coup, but a transfer of power as ruled out by an authorized body.
For many, the military coup in Myanmar came as a bombshell. However, to those cognizant of the real situation in that country, the event was not all that much unexpected, since even before that, senior General Min Aung Hlaing, pursuant to the Constitution, did virtually control nearly all the security structures of Myanmar, including the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Border Affairs. Right now, his powers and authority have expanded for at least a year, until the new parliamentary elections.
The 64-year-old general is believed to advocate close relations with Moscow, especially as regards military-technical cooperation. This fact was confirmed by Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu's official visit to Myanmar in mid-January this year, during which a document on military cooperation between the two countries was signed. The document stipulates that Russia supply Myanmar with the Pantsir-S1 missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems, Orlan-10E unmanned aerial systems, as well as radar installations. This document was signed in the presence of Sergei Shoigu and General Min Aung Hlaing himself.
Earlier, Russia has already supplied Myanmar with 30 MiG-29 aircraft, 12 Yak-130 combat training aircraft, six and ten Mi-24 and Mi-35P helicopters respectively, as well as Pechora-2M air defense missile systems. Moreover, the parties signed a contract for the supply of six Su-30SME multirole fighters to Myanmar and an agreement on a simplified procedure for the entry of warships into the ports of Russia and Myanmar. So, according to the experts, the Myanmar coup isn't fraught with serious losses to our country, but rather the opposite. Especially in the terms of military-technical cooperation.
However, it is fair to say that Myanmar's key economic partner is still China, which accounts for about 40% of its trade turnover. It is no secret that Naypyidaw is an essential policy direction for Beijing. For instance, the construction of a deep-water port and a special economic zone in Myanmar is included in China's top-priority Belt and Road Initiative. Besides, this country provides China with a critically needed access to the Indian Ocean, which will prevent the possible blocking of its transit through the Strait of Malacca, which, along with the Suez and Panama canals, is one of the most important sea routes on the planet. In this regard, while defending its economic interests, China may intercede for Myanmar before the West, primarily the United States, by vetoing all the attempts to impose sanctions against this country in the UN Security Council. All the more so as the UN has already called for sanctions against Myanmar.
It is worth noting that India, China's key antagonist in the region, is also keenly interested in Myanmar. For New Delhi, Naypyidaw is primarily a gateway to the ASEAN countries as represented by Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei. In order to gain access to them, India, in conjunction with Japan, plans to implement two large-scale projects in Myanmar.
Over the events in Myanmar, the stance taken by the United States should not go unspoken, as it wants to integrate Naypyidaw into the anti-Chinese alliance. However, Myanmar itself does not want to be a bargaining chip in other parties' games. And although its ties with China are of vital importance, Myanmar would not hear a word of any dependence on Beijing. Not least because the country does well remember that since the 1960s, the PRC supported the local Communist Party, which fought against the central government. Another obvious thing is that the Myanmar issue will further split China and the United States, as Beijing has always supported Naypyidaw, even in unpopular decisions.
As for the United States, under President Donald Trump Washington was mostly limited to criticizing local authorities for their behavior towards Rohingya Muslims (Bangladesh natives resettled to Myanmar during the British rule in this region –ed. note). It is believed, however, that the Biden administration intends to give pride of place to this issue. Experts suppose that the new White House head will actively interact with Myanmar through the lens of democracy and human rights protection. Washington has already deemed the arrests of Myanmar's leaders as a coup and has pledged continued assistance to the country's democratic and civil institutions. In any case, according to The Japan Times, the Myanmar events will become a challenge for President Biden in developing Washington's policy towards China and the entire Indo-Pacific region.
Meanwhile, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and Washington are on the lookout for the developments in Myanmar.