Burma: The Military Coup d'État; the Soul of Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN summit in Laos, September 2016 (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

In 2015, Burma held open elections, for the first time since 1990. The country held such elections again on November 8, 2020. The National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, won 83 percent of the available seats in parliament. The Union Solidarity and Development Party — the military’s instrument — won 7 percent.

Immediately, the military alleged electoral fraud. The allegations were spurious, as confirmed by the country’s electoral commission and international observers.

The new parliament was set to meet for the first time on Monday, February 1, and to formalize the results of the November elections. In the hours leading up to the session, the military moved, staging a coup d’état. They arrested democratic leaders and returned Burma to a military dictatorship. The coup leaders declared a one-year state of emergency. Recall that, in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak ruled by emergency decree for 30 years.

Jared Genser has been involved with matters Burmese for a long time. He wrote about the coup and its politics here; and he is my guest on Q&A, here.

Genser is one of the leading human-rights lawyers in the United States. He has represented dissidents, political prisoners, and others all over the world. He started doing this work when he was still a student. He co-founded Freedom Now, and is today managing director of Perseus Strategies.

Genser is a rare bird: He doesn’t care whether the dictatorship is Left or Right, red or black. He cares about helping its political prisoners.

From 2006 to 2010, Genser served as pro bono counsel to Aung San Suu Kyi. Once she assumed power in 2016, she accommodated the military in various ways, disappointing her admirers and supporters worldwide. Did she always have a dark streak? Or did she undergo a transformation?

Why did the military move against her, and against Burmese democracy? Did Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD not accommodate the military enough? Who are the competing groups in Burma — and the groups with no power or protection at all? How should the United States and other democracies respond to last week’s coup? Will the Burmese people take the coup — the decapitation of their democracy; a return to dictatorship — lying down?

These questions and more, Jared Genser answers with expertise. It is all very interesting, from political, historical, and even psychological points of view. Again, here.

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