The reported detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her political allies in the aftermath of the elections in November 2020 is a definite step backward in Myanmar’s already difficult democratic consolidation in recent years. The military take over and its imposition of a state of emergency for one year has no credible legal, political and moral basis and indeed creates yet another bad precedent for Myanmar’s nation-building process.
The Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI), the largest foreign policy association in Indonesia and in Southeast Asia, is deeply concerned about this recent downturn of political events of Myanmar.
We recognize that there are scores of elections around the world that are imperfect and messy — burdened by distrust, irregularities and lack of confidence. No electoral differences, however, should be resolved by any form of military intervention. That task should fall to the electoral commission and the constitutional court. The military in Myanmar should not be the judge and arbiter of elections. Indeed, the progression of democracy in Myanmar requires the military to decisively move in the direction of stepping away from practical politics, and not reinforce its strong-arm role in it.
The Indonesian Experience
It should be remembered that Indonesia, like Myanmar, also faced painful challenges in the early years of our democratic transition— financial crisis, separatism, weak institutions, political instability, social conflicts, terrorism. Yet, there was never a moment when we lost faith in democracy, and we never turned back the clock.
Significantly also, the Indonesian military willingly left politics permanently and completely, and became a professional military subordinate to civilian government and a committed protector of democracy. Regrettably, in the case of Myanmar, after the elections of 2015, the military retained its strong political role in Myanmar’s fragile political system, at the expense of Myanmar’s democratic development.
FPCI calls on Myanmar’s military leadership to ensure the speedy unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her political associates and all other political prisoners that are now being detained, and to allow them to freely exercise their rightful role in Myanmar’s political process. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy party, which represent a large portion of the Myanmar people, should also be closely consulted in any efforts by the military to resolve this democratic crisis. Any one-sided or exclusive solution will never resolve the underlying political problems in Myanmar. In the event that the military leaders, as they indicated, will hold “fresh elections,” every step should be taken to ensure that the election is conducted by an independent commission, in an atmosphere of free speech, fairness and free from oppression, and would allow international — especially ASEAN — observers to monitor the elections. The election in Myanmar must be decided by the will of the people and not by the design of the political elite.
Despite its persistent political, security and social problems in recent years, Myanmar has come a long way. It should not retreat from its democratic path.
An ASEAN anomaly
The recent political events in Myanmar also constitute a serious anomaly in today’s ASEAN, which has invested a great deal of time and effort to support Myanmar’s endeavors at promoting national stability, unity and progress.
The military takeover in Myanmar contravenes the ASEAN Charter, which commits “the peoples and member states of ASEAN to live in a just, democratic and harmonious environment”, and aims “to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and enhance rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The ASEAN Charter, to which Myanmar is a signatory, is legally binding to its member-states.
We also urge ASEAN to continue to unambiguously urge Myanmar to live up to the spirit of the ASEAN Charter and the vision of ASEAN Political Security Community. After all, what happens in Myanmar is important not just for Myanmar, but also for the future of our common home Southeast Asia.
Editor’s note: The above article is a press statement from the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) and, as a matter of course, the views expressed in it are those of the Community and not necessarily those of PinterPolitik. Nevertheless we share the view that recent events in Myanmar constitute a democratic debacle and we join the worldwide call for the release of detained officials and political prisoners so that the democratic political process may be restored in that country. For questions and comments regarding this article the reader may directly contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp +628176068888.