There is immense concern and sympathy around the world for the people of Afghanistan numbering around 38 million following the takeover by the Taliban and the imposition of their rigid laws such as the alleged public beheading of people and suppression of women’s rights. Surprisingly, the global concern and sympathy for Myanmar’s 55 million people [...]

Sunday Times 2

A Sri Lanka front for liberation of Myanmar


There is immense concern and sympathy around the world for the people of Afghanistan numbering around 38 million following the takeover by the Taliban and the imposition of their rigid laws such as the alleged public beheading of people and suppression of women’s rights.

Surprisingly, the global concern and sympathy for Myanmar’s 55 million people who went under the jackboot of a military junta on February 1 and are suffering similar misfortunes as much as the Afghan people, are markedly less.

Last week, in Sudan, there was a military coup led by its army commander and the reaction against it was almost instantaneous in the Western world and also by African nations and even the World Bank.

Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw, since the military detained them in a coup on February 1. - Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi testified for the first time in a junta court on October 26, 2021, four months after being put on trial by the military that toppled her government, a source with knowledge of the case told AFP

It could be said these events in these countries in locations far apart would different fallouts on world powers and those of lesser power resulting in different geopolitical reactions.

The reactions that followed the February 1 coup of Myanmar should be of special relevance to Sri Lankans. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country with which Sri Lanka has had close and intimate relations way back in history. And it is a country with which closer and intimate relations — both political and economic — should have been developed much more considering the ties of Buddhism and the common culture that has been shared by the majority communities of the two countries.

Shouldn’t closer and stronger friendship with Myanmar be considered because of the fact that in the post-Cold War world of today, ties of race, nationalism and religious beliefs are being considered as important factors as that of military, economic and strategic interests?

When Donald Trump asked:’Why can’t we get migrants from countries like Scandinavia and not those from sh**hole countries,’ wasn’t his message clear? His claim that he won the presidential election has been interpreted by some political analysts as saying that he won the majority among White voters but the collective vote of Hispanics, Blacks and other minorities together with the split White vote was the cause of his defeat? The overall thrust of Trumps politics is seen as retention of White Supremacy in the United States. And Trump has not been ruled out as the winner of the United States next presidential elections, even by some pro- Democratic Party analysts?

Sri Lankan leaders, when in office, often wax eloquent about how their foreign policy has won friends in all parts of the world, particularly in the Indian Ocean region.

The policy of Non- Alignment and now Neutral Non-Alignment is said to be winning foreign powers and influencing them to be favourable to Lanka. May be. In recent weeks, we witnessed Indian diplomats and military top brass storming through offices of the president, prime minister and some ministers. Why this sudden spurt in developing Indo-Lanka relations? Outdo China?

Last week, Russian, Japanese, American and Indian warships docked into Sri Lankan ports on ‘friendly visits’. Some observers of this form of friendship call it the 21st Century’s Gun Boat Diplomacy.  They didn’t fire deafening cannon across the harbour like what the Portuguese did when they arrived in Colombo harbour in 1505 but their powerful destroyers and submarines discharged smiling friendly military officials who conveyed the silent message: ‘Buddy we are also here’.

How many such trusted friendly neighbours or friends in the region came to our assistance during our three decades old War? Only one. And we don’t have to name it.

The concern and sympathy for the Afghans in the West could be for many reasons: having given the Afghan people hopes of building a democratic republic, the Americans and allies abandoned them almost overnight leaving hundreds of Afghans who risked their lives working for them to the mercy of the Taliban; the number of Americans and European youths sacrificed in the effort; an estimated trillion dollars spent over the adventure in Afghanistan and impossibility of returning to Afghanistan to rectify blunders committed after the signing of the Trump-Taliban agreement on evacuation of American troops.

Guilty conscience of the Western do-gooders? It could be, but time erases such guilty conscience — Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam…

Aung Sann Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has led her party to victory and defeated the military backed parties, every time elections were held with international observers. The country had been under military dictatorships since 1962 when army commander Gen Ne Win staged a coup in 1962 and military regimes continues to rule the country to date. In the first free elections held in May 1990, the NLD won 392 of 492 seats — 80 per cent of the seats — but the military junta refused to yield power; in April 2012 by-elections, the Suu Kyi-led NLD won 43 of 45 seats and in the 2015 General Election the NLD won absolute majorities in both chambers of parliament

At the November 2020 General Election, the NLD repeated its style in landslide victories but the day parliament was to convene, the army staged a coup; Suu Kyi and her cabinet ministers were arrested; martial law declared. But the entire country took to the streets protesting against the seizure of power by the military. The status quo of governance remains the same after six months. The septagenarian Suu Kyi is being tried by a military court behind closed doors for many offences.

Apart from condemnation of the coup by the UN Security Council and Western powers and a call for a halt to violence and restoration of civilian government, there has been no positive action taken against this blatant violation and rape of democracy.

ASEAN (Association of South East Nations) of which Myanmar is a member has held talks with the military junta led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and drawn up a five-point plan to tackle the crisis and also appointed a special envoy to facilitate dialogue.  But the junta has refused to permit the special envoy meet Suu Kyi and the envoy has called off his visit to Myanmar.

Last week, ASEAN took a positive step by not inviting the junta leader to their annual meeting. The junta relented and said it was releasing 5000 persons taken into custody after the crisis broke out but some news agency reports quoted unnamed sources as saying that the released prisoners were being re-arrested.

The UN special envoy for Myanmar Schroner Burgenar was quoted last week as saying that she feared civil war breaking out in the country. The people were angry, she said, and could resort to violence that could lead to a full blown armed conflict. Over a quarter of a million people had been displaced and those detained had been tortured.

Suu Kyi was considered a heroine in the West leading the fight against the military dictatorship for democratic rights. She was an alumna of Cambridge University and married to a British University don.  She was unable to meet her family because if she left Myanmar the junta would not permit her return. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But she fell from grace in the eyes of Western and other liberals and Muslims because of her failure to condemn the atrocities committed by the Myanmar regime of which she was the civilian leader, on Rohingya Muslims. Her critics said her Nobel Peace award should be withdrawn.

The February 1 Coup demonstrated the token power she held as a minister of a regime under the military and her impotence in repulsing thugs in military uniform.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 is said to be raging in the country, food is scarce as men and women are flocking to border to join ethnic rebels who had been resisting the central Myanmar government to take to arms.

The Sri Lanka government apparently wants to keep its foreign policy of Neutral Non Alignment unsullied by not interfering with the internal affairs of another country. Not only the government of Sri Lanka, we do not even hear of ardent Buddhists with missionary zeal, desiring to spread the Buddha Dharma in the West saying anything on the plight of 55 million Theravada Buddhist in Myanmar.

Lanka, it should be recalled, changed a government mainly to prevent the destruction of Buddhism in this country by its internal enemies. Do Lankan Buddhists not care to protect a country of 55 million Buddhists?

So, why not a National Liberation Front for Myanmar? We have had a commendable National Front for the Liberation of the People of Palestine for many years.

(The writer is the former editor of
The Sunday Island, The Island and consultant editor of the Sunday Leader)


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