After One Coup Recently Failed In America, Another Succeeds In Myanmar
Maitreya Bhakal Published: 03/02/2021
It seems to be the season of coup attempts. After losing the US Presidential election last year, the then President Donald Trump incited his followers to stage a coup – which failed spectacularly. Trump eventually caved and reluctantly left office, leaving his successor inmate with a highly unclean slate to run the asylum.
One arm of the regime fighting the other with lies and conspiracy theories is common in US politics. What was new was the violent faction of one arm attempting to incite a coup at home – something that the US had done in other countries for decades.
Meanwhile, as the sun rose on the other side of the globe, the Myanmar military seems to have succeeded where the former US President failed. Just like Trump, it had long disputed the results of the November elections – which the ruling party won spectacularly.
Early in the morning of February 1, it announced that it had declared a state of emergency and intended to rule the country for one year. President Win Mynt and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi – both the de jure and de facto heads of government – and other top political leaders were detained.
The West’s Darling
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) came into power in 2015 after a landslide election victory. Her struggle to turn Myanmar into a “democracy” attracted the gaze and fetish of the West – always eager to co-opt “human rights activists” in non-white countries into international icons for their own benefit.
The West welcomes multi-party democracy in relatively weaker nations like Myanmar – cloaking it in the diplomatic language of “freedom” and “transparency”. Open, messy democracies are often easier to mess with – to infiltrate, control, and manage. It helps that Myanmar borders China, America’s chief rival. That democracy on its own does little to improve people’s lives (just look next door to India, a democracy ranked 16 spots lower than Myanmar in the 2020 Global Hunger Index) is of little concern to the West.
Above: Video of physical education teacher Khing Hnin Wai dancing and exercising near the site of Myanmar’s parliament, while police and military vehicles travel in the direction of parliament behind her which was posted to Facebook on the day of the coup.
Human Rights and Human Fights
Suu Kyi soon became a darling of the western human rights industry, feted as a celebrity at awards and parties. The Economist, an orientalist British tabloid, awarded Myanmar its patronizing “Country of the Year” award in 2015. The West eventually rewarded her subservience with that ultimate western recognition: the Nobel Peace Prize, intending to further sponsor her as a long-term asset.
This carefully cultivated image and the house of cards was shattered by the Rohingya refugee crisis. Western media had hidden the skeletons in Suu Kyi’s closet for propaganda purposes – portraying her as a sanctified, Gandhian figure that could do no wrong. Yet, like many democratically elected leaders everywhere, Suu Kyi was both popular and a populist. Her popularity in Myanmar is perhaps matched only by the unpopularity of the Rohingya Muslim minority among military leaders.
She largely supported the military’s deadly persecution of the Rohingya people – called “ethnic cleansing” by the UN – surprising her western admirers. They had spent a lot of capital on her – and all of it risked being wasted by the revelation of her true colors.
Western nations were quick to denounce Monday’s coup with their usual hypocritical pontifications about democracy and rule of law. The Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs openly saw through this propaganda – tweeting that his country is not depending on “western narratives”. Interestingly, he also added that he had once warned Suu Kyi to save her country from being “broken up by well-wishing vultures”.
China and Myanmar have long shared close relations, even though the relationship has not been entirely frictionless. Myanmar (then called Burma) was the first non-communist country to recognize the PRC in 1949. China and Burma amicably resolved their boundary dispute in 1961, with China receiving only 18% of the total disputed territory. In a rare use of its UN veto power, it joined Russia in vetoing a US-sponsored resolution criticizing Burma’s “human rights” record in 2007.
Today, Myanmar is a key partner in China’s Belt and Road initiative. The military would be keen to assure China that its investments are safe. The West has long sought to poison the relationship both via its propaganda arm (the corporate media) and its diplomatic arm. Its latest tactic has been to portray China’s investments in Myanmar as “debt traps” – a conspiracy theory long discredited by experts.
The coup would likely complicate US efforts to cultivate assets within Myanmar’s government and turn the country into a pawn against China. Yet, given the close relations between China and Myanmar, this was difficult enough even when Suu Kyi was in power, and now even more so under military rule. It is time America learns that nations follow their national interests, no matter how many Nobel prizes you heap on their leaders.