The ‘cabinet reshuffle’ in Myanmar is not going too well. A massacre, some are calling the events of this Saturday where more than one hundred unarmed protesters were sprayed by their own men in uniform.
That includes 18-years-old Aung Zin Phyo (pictured), a local futsal club goalkeeper in Myanmar’s Mandalay city, according to Shoon Naing of Reuters.
Another country has fallen to dictatorship, and the heavy question for the US President Joe Biden is whether he will do anything about it?
An emergency international summit has been called, with a joint statement already issued by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, the UK and the US.
France is missing from this list. Presumably because Russia backs the coup and Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu went to Myanmar a week before the military takeover ostensibly to agree a number of arms deals including for surveillance drones.
Now Alexander Fomin, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defence, said in Myanmar that Russia is “committed to a strategy aimed at bolstering relations between the two countries.”
China on the other hand is trying to toe a very fine line, but it’s not very clear where Russia ends and where China begins.
Nor is it very clear whether Biden plans to do anything. He recently called Putin ‘a killer,’ and said we all will see soon enough what he will do about it.
Yet on Myanmar, besides pointless sanctions, he hasn’t done much so far to stand up for democracy, or to stand up to dictators.
The question is of course if not here, where or when does the west make a stand for the right to an accountable civilian government?
Some may also wonder whether Biden is derelicting his duties as the leader of the free world to maintain such freedoms, especially if there is evidence that either Russia or China was behind such coup.
As it stands there is no hard evidence. If there was, arguably Biden would have no choice but to forcefully intervene.
In such situation Biden could follow the Belgrade model. Bombing key sites of a massacring regime to then let the people themselves regain power and restore peaceful stability.
In Myanmar’s case there is a government in waiting with many diplomats defecting. In addition the army is very unpopular as shown by it so badly losing the election.
Any instability thus would derive from any action China would decide to take in such situation, or Russia which probably wouldn’t act without China’s consent.
If they decide to intervene against the will of the Myanmar people as shown by the election, then it would be a matter between the people of Myanmar and what then would be the invaders of either China or Russia.
The only unknown is whether the government in waiting would quickly take power and so restore stability as well as civilian freedoms.
While where it concerns any reaction by Russia or China, arguably that’s less of an unknown and more their decision on whether they want to create instability and in the case of China, whether it would want to become completely isolated.
Unlike the wars in the Middle East, on principle it may be that such limited Belgrade style intervention finds the support of most in the west – at least where millennials are concerned – who most likely feel threatened by yet another imposition of dictatorship, and want to stand for democracy if the people so freely choose it.
Which they often do, with even China admitting the self evident nature of the superiority of the democratic model by claiming “China has Chinese-style democracy.”
And yet Josep Borrell, EU’s equivalent of foreign minister, recently said that Russia sees democracy as an “existential threat.”
Both Putin and Xi have declared themselves President for life, and while they both claim they do not want to change the political system of an allied country – like USA demands they say – it appears Russia in particular tends to be aligned with dictatorships.
A country becoming democratic may well be an affront, as shown by the speculations that Russia did not help Armenia to punish them for their recent transition to democracy.
And thus the question is perhaps not whether Biden will help Myanmar, but whether Biden will stand for democracy, and if he doesn’t now, when will he?
That’s a question only he can answer for it’s a heavy question. Myanmar is a very poor country of 55 million people with a GDP of just $76 billion.
Putin may opportunistically have gone to back the massacrers, rather than orchestrating it.
China maybe really prefers the now imprisoned elected leader. And, perhaps, there wouldn’t be an easy transition to the government in waiting.
Yet one can also wonder after Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hong Kong and now Myanmar, what country comes next to either dictatorship or anexation?
Where markets are concerned, bitcoin goes more easily with freedoms as China’s closure of our exchanges clearly shows, but it isn’t clear whether markets would react at all to what in the grand scheme of things is a tiny country economically speaking.
Geopolitics does however affect bitcoin’s price, so what happens in Myanmar now, if anything, can be of interest.