Monday, September 25, 2023

Myanmar’s Opposition Navigates Unfamiliar Terrain Amidst Military’s Cunning Tactics

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Prior to the extension of the state of emergency, the State Administration Council (SAC) had reported that Aung San Suu Kyi and other prominent politicians would be released and that a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and Dr. Zaw Myint Maung would be arranged.


There was also speculation that Suu Kyi would be transferred from prison to house arrest in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw in a residence designated for deputy ministers. However, the rumored transfer to house arrest was received with skepticism, as the junta’s Deputy Minister of Information, Major General Zaw Min Tun, gave no clarity.

This indicates that people are optimistic that Aung San Suu Kyi can resolve the issue. Even the executive committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD) claims that Suu Kyi’s participation is crucial to resolving the nation’s upheaval, indicating that the populace’s hope for her intervention in the crisis is noticeable.

While people are concerned about this claim, the SAC has granted itself an additional six months of rule. The plans for Suu Kyi’s release remain elusive, and only a sentence reduction has been confirmed.

The junta’s crafty manipulation has been evident in its diplomatic games. The promise of foreign ambassadors meeting Suu Kyi was a mirage; instead, the junta orchestrated meetings with select diplomats, effectively keeping opposition figures and ambassadors under its control. For instance, when the SAC permitted the caretaker Thai minister of foreign affairs, Don Pramudwinai, to meet with Suu Kyi, the opposition groups and ambassadors were in fact manipulated by the SAC. It should be noted that the junta’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, resounded with confidence that nothing is beyond his reach, amplifying the challenge faced by those striving for democratic reform.

As a result of the pressure the junta is experiencing, both the domestic and international communities believe the junta may be having to compromise, possibly creating an opportunity for a breakthrough. At the very least, the NLD harbors hope for appeal hearings for Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, who face corruption and other charges. However, with the removal of the head of the supreme court and a lack of the appeal hearing schedule, the junta’s true intentions come into question.

Amidst the growing disillusionment over Suu Kyi’s prolonged detainment, the NLD’s central committee took a resolute step. On August 9, they expelled Henry Van Thio, the vice president of the NLD government, accusing him of collaborating with the military regime responsible for grave human rights violations.
The statement said, “Although U Henry Van Thio was a vice-president selected by the party during the term of previous Hluttaw from 2016 to 2021, he was seen on 31 July 2023 working together with the military regime which is committing many war crimes including atrocity, torture, arrest and killing civilians. NLD party convened an interim emergency meeting of second central committee on 8 August 2023, and decided to remove him as a member of the party.”

This drastic action mirrors the NLD leadership’s prior statements, showcasing their commitment to upholding principles over party alliances, even as they face challenging circumstances.

But the junta has made a clear agenda which is to (1) carry out the nationwide peace negotiation, (2) reform the military-controlled governance system, (3) amend the 2008 constitution, and (4) prepare for the elections. Some powerful nations have shown tacit support for this agenda, creating an uphill battle for the opposition. Therefore, their unity is paramount as they grapple with the junta’s multifaceted challenge.

There is still hope as the National Unity Government (NUG) and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) issued a resounding declaration on August 6, 2023, vowing to dismantle the dictatorship.

The six-point statement states:

  1. We are determined that the ultimate goal of Myanmar’s Spring Revolution is for the complete and rigorous implementation of federal democratic practices towards the establishment of a new federal democratic union in not only form, but also substance (System Change). The goal is not mere regime change, a change in form without a change in substance, which will only allow dictatorship to persist.
  2. In order that we may successfully achieve this goal, we firmly believe that this current illegal military seizure of power must be permanently removed, along with which must be permanently ended the custom of military coups and the involvement of the military in politics.
  3. As well, it is our firm promise that in the future federal democratic union, we will establish a “Federal Union Army” drawn from different ethnic nationalities, solely to bear the responsibility of defense against external threats, and unconditionally and without exception under the control of a civilian government.
  4. We will mandate and implement transitional justice mechanisms to address human rights violations, war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and other crimes committed not only since the conflicts caused by the illegal military coup, but for generations upon all classes and ethnic nationalities, in order to ensure that the truth is upheld of all such crimes, that there is responsibility and accountability, that justice is received, and to prevent further such violations.
  5. We embrace and agree to these goals, and categorically reject any and all political moves that should deviate us from the vision and values we have determined for a new era and a new system.
  6. We pledge to continue in our march and our fight without turning back or wavering, hand-in-hand with the people of all ethnic groups across the country who continue to fight, unrelenting and resilient, in a revolution towards a new era and a new system, fully guaranteeing political processes towards building a federal democratic union, and with collective leadership and collective responsibility on the basis of equality, until we have achieved our ultimate goal.

These six points show the opposition’s stance toward the military regime. According to point number five, even though Aung San Suu Kyi may negotiate an alliance with the junta, these revolutionary groups will remain committed to their mission.

However, the political game is difficult to anticipate.

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