As we have been reporting in the Trends Journal, since 1 February, tens of thousands of protesters in Myanmar have taken to the streets to fight for democracy. That has been as a result of a military coup that overturned recent election results and arrested the civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who reportedly won by a landslide this past November.
The protesters—many of them young people—face an emboldened police force backed by the military. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 912 people have died at the hands of the new regime since the coup.
On 30 March, in a report titled, “MYANMAR: ANOTHER DAY, MORE BLOODSHED,” we pointed out that Russia announced that it hoped to strengthen military ties with Myanmar after top military officials met in Naypyitaw. Reuters said the meeting “is the firmest sign yet of Russia’s support for the new military rulers in Myanmar.”
Alexander Fomin, the Russian envoy, met with Min Aung Hlaing, Chairman of the State Administration Council of Myanmar at the time, and assured him that Moscow was “committed to a strategy aimed at bolstering relations between the two countries.”
We have long reported extensively that the junta would not be able to stand on its own without significant help from countries like Russia and China. The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that it appears Russia is the willing ally.
The paper reported that Moscow hosted Min Aung Hlaing to discuss “defense relations” and—unlike China, which has expressed reservations about the coup—seemed committed to offering diplomatic and security assurances for the country.
“China is trying to be sitting in the middle,” Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN (from the old administration), said, according to the paper. He said China’s noncommittal approach is why “military relations between Russia and Myanmar are even now increasing.”
The paper said Myanmar is running out of countries willing to conduct business with, so Russia looks all the more appealing. In a report in our 22 June issue titled “UN TAKES ACTION AGAINST MYANMAR RULERS,” we pointed out that the United Nations General Assembly—in its toughest rebuke yet—demanded that the junta end the takeover and stop the killing. The resolution called on Myanmar’s armed forces to release Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other detained politicians. The resolution also called for the release of “all those who have been arbitrarily detained, charged or arrested.”
Thirty-six countries abstained, including China, Russia, and Mali. Belarus—which is reportedly a major arms supplier for the country—voted against the resolution.
Min Aung Hlaing announced last week that senior Russian defense officials promised him COVID-19 vaccines to help the country deal with an increase in cases, a goodwill gesture no doubt to further cement the relationship.
“I told them that I want two million and they will give,” he said on army-owned Myawaddy television, the report said.
Myanmar is recording over 5,000 new daily cases and more than a third of tests on average are coming back positive, state-run media reported this week.
Business Insider reported that there has been a fight over oxygen in the country, with the military claiming that the population is hoarding oxygen while the population accused the military of the same charge. Reports said that soldiers in the country opened fire on people in line for oxygen in Yangon.
“I wonder if the military is trying to survive by making it so there are no people left in the country,” Ko Thein Zaw, a resident of Mandalay, told The New York Times.
TREND FORECAST: Civil unrest will continue to escalate as people lose everything and have nothing left to lose. However, we maintain our forecast that military rule will continue in Myanmar, and threats by the UN, the United States, and other nations will achieve nothing in terms of bringing so-called “Democracy” to the country.
Furthermore, the stronger outside countries pressure the Myanmar government—be they in sanctions or supporting rebel movements—the greater the ruling government will strengthen its ties with its Chinese neighbor.
Russia is one of the Myanmar military’s main suppliers of arms. Russia is willing to exert itself in areas that it sees as beneficial in its long-term outlook. And Moscow knows that the U.S. has no interest in getting tied up in a conflict over Myanmar. The U.S. will issue press releases and new sanctions but there will be no political will to intervene in any substantial way.