Inheritance of Third Military Tyrant of Myanmar (Part -1)

The military coup of February 1 2021 put a stop to Myanmar transition to democracy. The president office promulgated the Ordinance No. 1/2021 and declared a state of emergency for the duration of one year and transferred legislative, executive and judiciary powers of the Union to the Commander-in-Chief (CIC) of the Defense Services in accord with the Section 418 (A) of the Constitution. The CIC office declared that an election would be held when the state of emergency expired and the state powers would be transferred to a winning political party of the election. However, the Chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC) stated on August 1 2021 in his speech marking half a year of the coup that an election would be held only in August 2023. It meant the election will be only after the expiry of the first one-year and two six-month extensions of the state of emergency in accord with the 2008 Constitution, and the last six months would be set for an election preparation. Again, in December 2021, the Chairman of the SAC, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing discoursed that a new election and transfer of power to a winning party would be possible only when the SAC’s five-point road map was successfully accomplished.

After the coup, twenty-three political parties including the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) released a press statement saying they would co-operate with the military. The SAC’s election commission targeted the National League for Democracy (NLD) and the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) to derail them from electoral politics. The political parties having a close relation with the SAC are expecting it will create a political environment without the NLD and UNA as in the 2010 elections. On May 21 2021, the Chairman of the Union Election Commission (UEC) U Thein Soe hinted at a possible deregistration of the NLD, but he mentioned in August China urged not to do so. Later in January 2022, Major General Zaw Min Tun spoke to the Nikkei of Japan about it. China likes the Myanmar military who always favors its interests and related investments to be in power, but it also wants the continuing existence of the NLD at the same time. On the other front, China has been apparently endeavoring to influence the Northern Alliance through Wa since the coup and to maintain a power equilibrium among three different forces of Myanmar politics which they classify as the military and its pro-rightwing forces; the NLD and the Ethnic Resistance Organizations (EROs). China’s primary concern is its interests to remain intact and a political environment favorable to them. However, the emergence of armed resistance following the military coup in and around the project areas of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) has raised their concerns.

After a widespread detention of the NLD’s top leaders including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the military said they would have a dialog with the remaining NLD members who they considered flexible. It can be assumed that their plot is to promote legitimacy of their planned election and create a divide among the remaining NLD forces inside the country by letting them take part in the election as they did with the National Democratic Force (NDF) in the 2010 elections. The SAC is expecting a win in the August 2023 election by keeping Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other top-level leaders behind bars as they did in the 2010 elections. Anti-coup forces think the SAC would not really hold an election, or even if they would, it would lack fairness or reliability. In Myanmar, there has been four military coups so far and each time the military introduced a new political scheme. Moreover, it’s not surprising that elections held by the coup leaders never win the trust of the people as they are often unjust and unfair, and the military always fail to keep their words for transfer of power.

In September 1958, the then Prime Minister U Nu sent a letter offering transfer power to General Ne Win, and the latter replied he would accept. After these two letters were officially announced, there appeared a wide and loud critic of a military coup in the political society of Burma. General Ne Win was appointed as the Prime Minister by the People’s Assembly in October, and he installed a care-taker government and ruled until 1960.

Despite an election was held in 1960, the military coup of 1962 revoked the 1947 Constitution and terminated a parliamentary democracy. From 1962 to 1974, General Ne Win ruled the country as the Chairman of the Union Revolutionary Council (URC) and Head of Government. During that period there was no legislature, but the URC directly governed. Then, in 1974 a constitution was developed, and a presidential system in the Union of Socialist Republic was vitalized through a People’s Assembly and General Ne Win changed uniform and continued to rule as the President. The former Commanders-in-Chief of the Defense Forces were General San Yu (1972-74), General Thura Tin Oo (1974-76), General Thura Kyaw Htin (1976-85) and General Saw Maung (1985-92). Throughout the rule of the Burma Socialist Programmed Party (BSPP), General Ne Win gripped the position of the Chairman of the State Council and served as the President from 1974 to 1981. He only appointed his trusted fellows as Commanders-in-Chief, but seized all powers in his hands.

In 1988 the military led by General Saw Maung staged a coup and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) (also known as NaWaTa) and transferred the power from the BSPP. The People’s Assembly was dissolved, and the 1974 Constitution with one-party rule was repealed. On September 18 1988 the SLORC declared the four main objectives by the Order No. 1/88. After the coup, General Saw Maung pledged an election, transfer of power to a winning party in the election, and return of the military to barracks. He revoked all leading bodies formed in accord with the 1974 Constitution with the Order No. 2/88. He self-promoted as Senior General and served as the Chairman of the SLORC and Head of Government until he was ousted from power in 1992. The coup leader held a multi-party general election in 1990, and the NLD won, but the SLORC-member Generals did not agree to end the coup in which U Ne Win was the man behind by handing over the power to a political party which was not supported by the military. With an excuse of the need of a new constitution, the SLORC issued the Order No.1/90 signed by its Secretary, General Khin Nyunt on July 27 1990 saying no power transfer without a constitution. Consequently, in April 1992, two years after the 1990 general election, Senior General Saw Maung was ousted from power and General Than Shwe succeeded as the Chairman of the SLORC and Head of Government. General Than Shwe became Commander-in-Chief in 1992 and self-promoted as Senior General in 1993. He engineered a national convention to develop a new constitution from 1993 till 2007. The SLORC changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997.