Myanmar’s military leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, has promised to crush any opposition to his regime in a rare Armed Forces Day speech. Speaking at a lavish military parade on Monday, the general vowed to deal decisively with “acts of terror” by armed resistance groups and called on countries that have condemned the military coup to support his regime.
The military leader also branded countries that have criticized the coup as supporters of terror, insisting that they were wrong and should join the military in shaping its own form of democracy.
Myanmar 🇲🇲: Statement by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union 🇪🇺 on the dissolution of democratic political parties pic.twitter.com/3xGYkXUYV5
— EUMyanmar (@EUMyanmar) March 29, 2023
The parade itself was a show of extravagance, with General Min Aung Hlaing inspecting the troops from an open-top jeep, sending a message that he was uncontested in his command of the army and the country.
The civil war that has engulfed Myanmar since the coup in 2021 has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million. Despite international condemnation and sanctions, the military has refused to relinquish its grip on power.
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Myanmar’s military leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, blamed British imperialism and Japanese fascism for dividing Myanmar and pushing the armed forces to intervene repeatedly in its political life over the past 75 years. He also blamed Aung San Suu Kyi and her party for attempting to seize power through their resounding election victory in November 2020, when it was the military that seized power at the point of a gun.
Despite promising a return to democracy and eventual elections, General Min Aung Hlaing’s version of democracy would be one where the military calls the shots. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was convicted on implausible charges, remains locked up not far from where the speech was delivered, making it clear that no civilian will be allowed to challenge the military’s dominance.
The military’s campaign to crush resistance has been marked by unspeakable brutalities against civilians, with soldiers terrorizing populations in insurgent areas with air strikes and rocket launchers. The military’s use of brute force on an increasingly exhausted population appears to be an attempt to cement their regime.
International censure and sanctions have increasingly isolated Myanmar, but it still retains the support of China and Russia. Representatives of both countries were present at the parade, with their aircraft and helicopters showcased as part of the display. The army’s message was clear: it is strong, united, and able to impose its will on the country. The military seems to believe that brute force, used on an increasingly exhausted population, will eventually cement their regime.
Many Burmese people, exhausted by the conflict and the wretched state of the economy since the coup, may want a return to some kind of normality on almost any terms. However, the military’s promise of a return to democracy is unlikely to convince those who have suffered at the hands of the regime.