Never trust a man with a gun.
It is a lesson that time and again is demonstrated in nations where the military plays a prominent role in governance.
Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the National League for Democracy (NLD) in a sweeping victory in Myanmar’s general election two months ago leaving the military-backed opposition red-faced, has fallen victim once more to the adage.
On Feb. 1, 2021, the military arrested the popular leader and other key figures of NLD, signaling the demise of democracy. Myanmar became a republic in 1948 until a coup d’etat in 1962 put the military in power.
After nearly 30 years, the military government allowed free elections in 1990 with NLD winning 392 out of 492 seats, but the former rejected the results. Instead, the rulers detained most of its leaders. Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest most of the time, from 1989 until 2010.
The junta allowed general elections in November 2015. NLD gained most of the seats in both chambers of the national parliament. Though barred from becoming president, the democratically elected government designated Suu Kyi state counsellor equivalent to prime minister.
While in power, Suu Kyi lost most awards and honors bestowed on her by international bodies due to the persecution of the Muslim Rohingyas that she failed to condemn and with others considering her complicit in the “genocide.”
Still the Burmese people had confidence in her leadership that led to the resounding victory in the 2020 general election. But the military could not accept defeat, declaring the election results fraudulent. Though she has now been released, she is facing charges with illegally importing 10 or more walkie-talkies, which if proven will put her in prison for up to three years.
The United Nations and the US condemned the usurpation of power, demanding a return to democracy.
The military chief Min Aung Hlaing — the man with the gun — declared a state of emergency for one year.
Hlaing, about to reach retirement age, has been directly involved with the persecution of the Rohingyas so that both the US and the United Kingdom blacklisted him for his role in “ethnic cleansing” and human rights violations. He is also believed to have enriched himself and his family while in power.
So much blood shed, so many sacrifices have been made in the past for democracy to flourish in Myanmar and now it has been nipped in the bud.