Having governed since 2015 and won a landslide in November’s general election, Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has been ousted by a military coup. Taking a leaf from the Trump playbook, the generals are claiming election fraud.
The NLD won 58.6% for the lower chamber and 61.6% for the upper chamber, versus 5.9% and 3.1% for the military front party USDP.
The military, who have run Myanmar for most of the time since its independence in 1948, never really gave up much power. The problem is not just the NLD’s timidity: Aung San Suu Kyi has denied that the regime and its far-right Buddhist supporters have committed genocide against the mainly-Muslim Rohingya people of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and repeated its narratives about illegal migrants from Bangladesh and Islamic terrorism.
The Rohingya have been described as “the world’s most persecuted minority”. In addition to tens of thousands killed, two million have been driven into exile in Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere; the remaining minority are held in an apartheid-style set-up. Allowed to resettle freely, they would approach a majority of Rakhine’s population. Myanmar denies they are even citizens and has banned official use of the word "Rohingya".
From the late 1980s and particularly in the last decade Myanmar’s regime has loosened up a little, in some parts of the country. In recent years a pretty much legal trade union movement has emerged. But forced labour and violence against minorities continue.
Despite the NLD’s supine record, the generals evidently feared that eventually they would be pushed to one side. In any case, the NLD’s calculation that deference to the military would allow them to continue civilian rule proved false.
Solidarity with the Rohingya and other persecuted minorities, with Myanmar’s democrats, and with its labour movement against this coup!
• For updates from the international trade union movement on Myanmar, including in response to the coup, see LabourStart