Myanmar’s military junta has staged a coup, detaining National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi and key party officials before a new session of parliament could open.
In November 2020, the NLD defeated pro-military parties in a landslide election victory. The junta has cried voter fraud but this coup is a clear attempt to hang on to power.
Meanwhile, protesters have taken to the streets across Myanmar and at its embassies, banging pots and pans and borrowing the three-finger salute from the Thai pro-democracy movement.
Suu Kyi has rightly called for the Myanmarese people to protest the coup. But contrary to her popular image as a Nobel Prize-winning, non-violent activist, Suu Kyi is not the saviour the people need.
During the 8-8-88 uprising (8 August 1988), Suu Kyi demobilised the militant workers’ and student movements to turn them into a base for her electoral ambitions. After her release from house arrest in 2010, she and the NLD compromised time and again with the junta, which is constitutionally guaranteed a full quarter of the seats in Parliament.
For years, Suu Kyi has denied the ongoing genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. She met with the racist Hungarian President Viktor Orban in 2019, releasing a joint statement on “the issue of coexistence with continuously growing Muslim populations”.
The West makes a show of its support for democratic reforms in Myanmar but international capitalism has facilitated the junta’s butchery.
Australia is party to a web of resource extraction ventures that have thus far displaced over 344,000 people, mostly minorities. Australia also continues formal military cooperation with the junta.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the coup as “troubling”. This from the man whose lethal boat turnback programme left Myanmarese refugees to drown at sea or trapped them for years in offshore prison camps.
Those refugees fled the junta’s genocide and oppression. As more arrive, we must fight the Liberals’ racist fearmongering and welcome them all.
Medical workers have led the fightback. Employees at nearly 100 government hospitals struck on Wednesday, joined by medical students, teachers’ unions and, encouragingly, engineers at military-linked companies.
In 1988, the pro-democracy movement hesitated instead of finishing the junta off once and for all. Now, students and workers must build a mass strike movement that will not repeat this mistake.
By Jason Wong