In a shocking turn of events, Myanmar's military has seized power on the day the first new parliamentary session was due to be held after the November national election that gave a landslide victory to the National Laegue for Democracy (NLD). That the party's leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other top civilian leaders were taken into custody on Monday is an ominous sign for democracy in Myanmar. Despite our strong opposition to Suu Kyi's denial of atrocities committed against the Rohingya, which forced them to flee to Bangladesh, we cannot but express our disappointment in Myanmar's total disregard for the democratic process of elections and the will of the people.
The Myanmar army's actions have only reinforced their image of arbitrariness and ruthlessness that was evident in their treatment of the Rohingya, which the international community has termed ethnic cleansing and genocide. For Bangladesh, this latest act of seizure of power has created greater uncertainty regarding the Rohingya refugee repatriation process, talks of which were going on between the two countries. The Bangladesh foreign minister, however, has said that talks regarding the repatriation process will continue regardless of who is in power.
The Rohingya, meanwhile, have continuously said that the conditions in Rakhine state were still very precarious with no guarantee of citizenship, safety and basic rights. Now, with this latest arbitrary move, it will be even more difficult to ascertain the conditions.
It is clear that after ruling the country for almost all of the last six decades, the military does not want to let go of its absolute power that it partially shared after it allowed Suu Kyi to be the State Counsellor of Myanmar. Now, after witnessing a landslide victory with an even larger portion of the popular vote than in the 2015 elections, it has decided that it will go back to the old way of total and absolute control by declaring a state of emergency and a take-over of power for 12 months. Tensions were already brewing after the elections, with the head of the military warning that the country's constitution could be revoked, and protests by pro-military supporters against the election results. The military has brought up allegations of voter fraud and other irregularities, which are befuddling considering the extent of their control and power in the country.
Thus, whatever illusions the people of Myanmar had about democratic reforms in the country have been shattered. As most of the world, we too, are concerned by these disturbing developments. As a democratic nation that has suffered much from military dictatorships, we want our neighbouring countries to be governed by representatives who are fairly elected by the people and not ruled by undemocratic forces.