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Myanmar Crisis Hinges on Stance of Ethnic Political and Armed Organizations

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More than three weeks after the February 1 coup in Myanmar, in which the military toppled the civilian government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD), all attention is on the struggle between the junta and the disparate Civic Disobedience Movement, which has mobilized hundreds of thousands of (mostly young) people from across Myanmar’s geographical, social, and ethnic spectrum.

The protests have been covered in the international media much in the vein of the various “color revolutions” that have taken place in recent years: as a story of the people vs. the dictator. But a decentralized protest movement is not an actor, it cannot negotiate, and it is by itself unlikely to topple a regime. The reeling NLD is now finding its feet and has started building a shadow administration around the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, a collection of parliamentarians elected at November’s annulled election. In addition to setting up a network of local councils, it is reaching out to other domestic groups as well as to the international community.

In parallel, some smaller political parties have formed a General Strike Committee, and some ethnic political and civil society organizations formed a General Strike Committee of Nationalities, both of which supported the successful general strike on February 22. Though these efforts are not in sync with one another we can think of them as the beginnings of a proto-government. With two governments forming now, the junta and the proto-government in opposition, it will be crucial how ethnic political and armed actors align.

Ethnic minority organizations and armed groups detest the military. Myanmar has 135 recognized ethnicities but the successive military dictatorships that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011 have an awful track record of ethnic discrimination. In a bid to unify the country they pursued an extreme policy of “Burmanization” of all walks of life. Myanmar to this day........

© The Diplomat

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