Conflict Alerts # 383, 26 May 2021
In the news
On 21 May, the military government-appointed election commission chair said that the NLD party should be disbanded. The regime accused the NLD of fraudulent behaviour in the 2020 election. He also suggested NLD leaders should be prosecuted as "traitors."
On 24 May, the defence lawyer of Aung San Suu Kyi quoted her saying: "… the NLD party was founded for the people and it will continue to exist as long as the people are there." This was said during her first in-person meeting since the coup that took place ahead of a court hearing. On the same day, the hearing for the former President and Naypyitaw Council Chair was also held.
Earlier, on 17 May, new sanctions were levied by the US, the UK and Canada against the military leaders and the economic conglomerates associated with them. According to the Association of Political Prisoners, more than 800 are killed, and approximately 4300 are detained, of which more than 73 are journalists.
Issues at large
First, the political significance of Suu Kyi's NLD vis-a-vis the military supported USDP. The NLD - National League for Democracy, founded in 1988, is the most prominent political party of Myanmar, with Suu Kyi, as its chairperson. In the 1990 elections, it won more than 55 per cent of the vote and a majority of the seats. In the 2015 and 2020 elections, the NLD secured 80 per cent and 83 per cent of votes respectively. On the contrary, the Union Solidarity and Development Party established in 2010 with the military's support could only secure 30 and 26 seats out of the total 440 seats respectively in these two elections. With the NLD contesting, the UPDP's chance of securing reasonable seats in any forthcoming election is remote. Hence, the regime wants to keep the NLD away.
Second, the political significance of Aung San Suu Kyi, as the symbol of democracy for the masses. Suu Kyi is referred to as 'amay' (mother) and has always been people's hope for change. She is the daughter of the father of the Myanmar nation - Aung San, and has been revered by multiple ethnic groups despite differences. She has a popularity that the regime cannot match, hence want to keep her away from politics.
Third, the role of external sanctions in pressurizing the regime. As mentioned by the governmental spokesperson to CNN, sanctions do not impact the regime as its leaders have learned to live with it. The sanctions imposed on Myanmar until 2012 were ineffective to deter the ruling elite; instead it negatively impacted the people and Myanmar's economic development.
First, the change in regime's strategy and its fallout. It has shifted from killing on the streets to detentions since April. This could be an outcome of the ASEAN summit on 24 April. This highlights the regime's intent to hold on to power.
Second, none of the international sanctions and appeal will impact this government's resolution. The businesses of these leaders or their families are not dependent on western countries, and they have their allies to support them.