07-02-2021: When is a military coup progressive? When it stymies and rolls back the designs of US imperialism, that’s when. On February 1 the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) detained leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi and took control for 12 months, citing a clause in the country’s 2008 constitution. The clause states that in case of a national emergency, the president and the National Defence and Security Council can issue a decree to hand the government’s executive, legislative and judicial powers to the Tatmadaw’s commander-in-chief. The Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services is Min Aung Hlaing, who is now in power of the state for the coming year. Suu Kyi along with President U Win Myint and other National League for Democracy (NLD) officials were detained, with the Tatmadaw announcing a new round of elections will be held due to voter irregularities and suspected fraud during the November 8 election last year. The NLD “won” an absolute parliamentary majority, and has been running the government in Myanmar since 2016.
Coup installed President denounces…coup
Scaling the heights of hypocrisy, US President Joe Biden – weeks after being installed in a deep state coup where blatant and overt electoral fraud was documented – condemned the Tatmadaw’s takeover in Myanmar. His statement threatened to reimpose sanctions which were lifted following the 2016 election which propelled Suu Kyi into the leadership. Laughably, Biden’s statement also averred that “The United States will stand up for democracy whenever it is under attack” ! This is from the very same government which has directly funded “civil society” Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in Myanmar for decades – almost all of which have the aim of subverting if not overthrowing the state.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the public relations arms of the CIA, even lists on its own website around 80 phony “human rights” and “investigative journalism” organisations it funds and sustains. Using the British colonial based former name of Myanmar (Burma),the names of just some of these organisations are a dead giveaway: Assistance for Political Prisoners and Human Rights Advocacy, Burmese Language Satellite Television Broadcasts, Civil Society Development in Burma, Empowering Burmese Democracy Activists and so on. Obviously, this is not benevolent funding so much as a direct and orchestrated attempt at regime change, which blatantly violates any semblance of Myanmar’s national sovereignty. It is the internal political version of landing US troops on the beaches and marching to the capital. Yet it has been going on for decades – and was the prime reason why Aung Sung Suu Kyi became leader (or State Counsellor) in the first place.
British imperialism is also in on the act. It is no exaggeration to say that almost the entirety of the “pro-democracy” movement – including the NLD – is a not indigenous to Myanmar at all. It is a product of the political and financial backing of two of the most powerful capitalist powers on earth – the US and the United Kingdom (UK). This faux “democracy” movement is so powerful that it is virtually impossible to run in the elections against the NLD and make any substantial electoral gains. The US and UK funded fronts operating in Myanmar operate as para-state organisations, and working people in Myanmar simply do not have the political or financial resources to compete with them. The Tatmadaw’s claim that the November 8, 2020 election in Myanmar contained fraud is indeed feasible.
Targeting Red China
The goal of this extensive political interference in Myanmar by Washington and London, and backed by Canberra, is not only to procure a more pro-Western government in Naypyidaw. It is also aimed at Myanmar’s giant neighbour, the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The economy of the PRC, a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state, is in the process of outstripping the capitalist economies of the US and Europe because it does not primarily run on the basis of production for private profit. Huge state-owned industries in the PRC provide the stimulus for economic growth rates which are simply not possible in the West – or at least not over a period of decades. Myanmar, a direct neighbour of the PRC and a developing country, has no option but to join with the PRC in its offers of mutually beneficial trade, investment and infrastructure building opportunities. Neither the US nor Europe nor Australia nor Japan can even offer the economic partnerships the PRC can. Aung Sung Suu Kyi, despite being installed with the backing of Washington and London, understood this. She did not break Myanmar’s ties with the PRC, as it would be economic suicide. This enraged Washington, which cannot abide by sovereign decisions to do business with Beijing.
This was the real basis for the Western campaign against Suu Kyi over the manufactured Rohingya “crisis” of 2017. Washington was scarcely concerned about the human rights of the Rohingya in the Rakhine state – they were far more concerned about the PRC assisting Myanmar in building the deep-water port of Kyaukpyu, which lies at the conclusion of the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline. This pipeline went into use in 2013, and stretches from Kyaukpyu in the Bay of Bengal through to Kunming in South Western China, dissecting Myanmar. The PRC is building the Kyaukpyu port as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and delivering oil and gas to Kyaukpyu via the pipeline for export bypasses the Malacca Strait. This means that the oil and gas shipments do not have to negotiate the South China Sea, which remains patrolled by US warships with the assistance of the Australian Navy.
The crocodile tears and handwringing by Western governments over the fleeing of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh in 2017 was pure hypocrisy. The Rohingya were fleeing violence from two sources. Firstly, they had been subjected to racist physical attacks from Buddhist “monks” who wanted to drive them out of Myanmar, and who were also a part of the political base of the “Saffron Revolution” which assisted Aung Sung Suu Kyi into power. Secondly, they were fleeing from the violence instigated by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) – who do not at ally deny their links to Al Qaeda. Despite their name the ARSA do not only attack the Myanmar government, they attack other Rohingyas who do not support their violent separatism.
It was sheer folly to suggest the Tatmadaw engaged in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya. In reality, the Tatmadaw were responding to an armed pre-dawn attack on 30 police posts across the townships of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, as well as an army post at Tuang Bazaar. The ARSA assault took the lives of at least 10 police, 80 ARSA militia and 6 civilians. The Rohingya who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh were thus fleeing the conflict between the ARSA terrorists and the Tatmadaw, with the clear danger of being caught in the crossfire. Can anyone imagine what the government response would be in Australia, the US or the UK if a militant group had launched an ambush on police stations and slaughtered 10 police officers? To ask this question is to answer it.
Armed separatists bordering the PRC
Suu Kyi – and most in Myanmar – could see the manipulation of the Rohingya “cause”. Therefore she (correctly in this case) refused to acknowledge alleged “human rights” crimes in the Rakhine state. This – along with her rational position of refusing to break lucrative and necessary trade and investment ties with Beijing – was the reason Suu Kyi was subject to a backlash from Western liberals who had previously upheld her as a democracy icon. There were calls for the Nobel laureate to be stripped of her Nobel peace prize, and Amnesty International stripped her of its highest award, an “Ambassador of Conscience”. In practice, this was also an expression of US imperialism giving Suu Kyi a public slap on the wrist for not being pliable enough in their barely concealed anti-China drive.
At the same time, Western backing of armed separatist groups along the norther border with the PRC continues. Armed groups from the Kachin state are engaged in a running battle with the Tatmadaw, ostensibly for “independence”, but in reality serving to destabilise co-operation between Myanmar and the PRC. Kachin fighters in fact formed part of the UK’s Burmese colonial army stemming out of World War II. It was stacked with Kachin alongside Gurkha from Nepal and Punjabis from India, while there were barely any from the Burman majority. A classic divide and rule colonial tactic, but one which serves to disrupt key Myanmar-PRC building projects today.
For example, the Kachin Development Network Group (KDNG) – another US government funded NGO in Myanmar – publicly campaigns against the Myitsone Dam project in the Kachin state. Wikileaks revealed some of its activities some five years ago. Ostensibly they campaign against the dam on environmental grounds, claiming that people will be displaced and environmental damage will be caused. Yet this is a transparent ruse to oppose a major project that will provide electricity to areas of northern Myanmar that have never previously seen it – in order to disrupt economic activity which is spurred through dealings with China.
US funded fronts, not “NGOs”
It is oxymoronic to describe US funded NGOs as “NGOs”, as their entire agenda matches that of one of the most powerful foreign governments in the world. Even the Australian state media admits US funding of the “civil society” groups in Myanmar would not be affected by any sanctions that were applied. This amounts to a sum – or that which they admit to – of $US 108 million per year. This money does not go to the people of Myanmar – it pours into a spectrum of organisations which undermine and subvert the government towards US interests. They include fake human rights fronts, quasi legal organisations, media organisations and supposedly environment focused campaign groups. In reality, they politically bolster the NLD, and undermine, attack and reverse cooperation between Myanmar and the PRC. For unknown reasons, the Tatmadaw has allowed these US funded political mining operations to operate unhindered in Myanmar for decades.
However, the Tatmadaw’s recent takeover is the first indicator that perhaps it needs to take steps to ensure US/UK influence does not prevail entirely. Ultimately, the US would prefer to have US troops in Myanmar on the border with Red China, as a continuation of imperialism’s struggle to contain and encircle the PRC – in the manner of Russia and Iran. The US almost gained complete control of Myanmar via Aung Sung Suu Kyi and its fabricated NLD. However, the Tatmadaw has stepped in to prevent this from occurring. To this extent only, Marxists offer critical support to the actions of the Tatmadaw insofar as it acts to defend Myanmar and its people from US control. In a similar way in which Marxists offered critical support to the actions of the Russian government in using its superior air power to strike down ISIS mercenaries in Syria, the actions the Tatmadaw takes to defend Myanmar from Western or Al Qaeda backed terrorists can be similarly defended.
For a socialist Asia
Needless to say, military moves in Myanmar alone are not enough to curtail the intrigues of the US Empire, especially when it tactically plays the game of political subversion so well. Already, a “civil disobedience” campaign to the Tatmadaw coup among health workers and teachers has begun, no doubt linked to the very US backed NGOs well versed in disguising political motives. The Tatmadaw would do well to begin to uproot and remove these subversive groups entirely. Or at the very least, put in place laws such as those of the Russian Federation. In Russia, US funded fronts are required by law to publicly disclose their funding, so that Russians know exactly who is behind the groups being vocal for “democracy” and “human rights”. It is one reason why the pro-US “democracy” groups in Russia have such little backing, which is confined to a relative handful of malcontents.
Amongst other things, given that both the government and the Tatmadaw were in the process of implementing the Covid “pandemic” nonsense, neither offer political direction to the workers of Myanmar. Only a genuine socialist movement can provide a path forward for Myanmar and all of South Asia. While economic cooperation with the PRC will be vital, politically South Asia needs proletarian revolutions in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia to be combined with proletarian political revolutions in China, Vietnam, and Laos. The forging of internationally linked Leninist vanguard parties is a prerequisite, to light the path towards regionally integrated planned economies.