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A discussion on the military crackdown in Myanmar

Where Generals Dare: The Continuing Saga in Myanmar was the subject of a virtual discussion organised by the Press Institute of India in March. The freewheeling and engaging discussion focused on the present while also taking a look back and at the possible road ahead. P. M. Heblikar, former special secretary, Government of India, and now managing trustee, Institute of Contemporary Studies Bangalore; Cmde R. Seshadri Vasan, director, Chennai Centre for China Studies; Col. R. Hariharan, strategic security and intelligence analyst, and columnist; and Dr Win Naing, senior member, National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmar participated. Dr Naing joined from the UK. Sashi Nair, director, Press Institute of India, moderated.

Myanmar’s brief and tenuous one-decade experiment with democracy got over when the military seized control on 1st February 2021 and declared a yearlong state of emergency. Military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power. In a general election which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, the armed forces had backed the opposition who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread fraud. The inability of the NLD leadership to discuss the allegations of electoral fraud and the rejection by the Union Election Commission (UEC) of military’s demands for investigation precipitated the political crisis. The military did not wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the matter. Suu Kyi was put under house arrest and many NLD officials were detained. The panelists agreed that the stand-off in Myanmar was moving towards uncharted waters. With the crackdown on protests being brutal, many shot in cold blood and the death toll rising daily, speakers felt that the onus was on the international community to mediate immediately to end the violence, destruction and economic ruin. There was also the feeling that India could play a more proactive role rather than only publicly expressing its deep concerns over the recent development and articulating support to the transition to the democratic process.