The collective foolishness of the Myanmar crisis

Afsan Chowdhury
Thursday, September 21st, 2017


It was never in doubt that the military rules Myanmar and Suu Kyi was a semi-powerless stooge in their hand. That really never mattered since in the end an ethnic cleansing was carried out no matter who did it. So her words and wishes are just that.  Few Nobel laureates are going to be remembered with such dislike as her. History produced her and it is history that is discarding her now.


But why were such hopes pinned on Suu Kyi, the Oxford educated scion of Burma’s soldier hero? Was it because Western that education is supposed to have had a positive impact in producing her and taking her to a level where ordinary Myanmar citizens can’t reach? That the disappointment of Western media in Suu Kyi, the deliverer is greater than empathy for the victims of ethnic cleansing is obvious. It’s here that the failure of the global political models is clear. The world is not universal and nor are human rights.


The production of the Myanmar state is linked to colonialism as well so none can be seen in isolation. What we are now observing is the late stage of an earlier process that began with the use and misuse of ethnic groups that became part of the colonial policy and whose echoes still reverberate. The brutalization of natives by Western powers produce long term hatreds and both Burmans and Rohingyas are in some sense victims of history. Where contemporary world fails is in the by-products of resistance to exploitation. Military becomes the most organized force in such post-colonial worlds and they are almost without exception extremely brutal. It’s in the character of any armed groups, formal or informal and ultimately force is a legitimate part of such theology. One should not be surprised by such cruelties. One should be surprised that they are not more cruel.

But the deeper crisis should go beyond Myanmar bashing which is now so commonplace that it may hide the ailments of governance that haunt us all. Three parties, all involved in the Myanmar expose that.


Bangladesh never felt that it should pay attention to the Myanmar problem and its official minions slept till it became a crisis and hit hard. The failure since 1978 should be measured in the continued absence of long term policies that displays the weakness of a bureaucracy run state.


China’s strength is increasingly showing signs of  wear and tear where economic priorities are so overwhelming that it doesn’t hesitate to support a government that participates in genocide laced ethnic cleansing.  It seems to be led by leaders who think only Chinese interest matters and in the best interest of gain, any loss by the rest could be acceptable. As its star is on the rise, it notices nothing but its stupendous rise is only 15 years old at best and its managing with ancient models of governance where public opinion doesn’t matter. Support to Myanmar shows it doesn’t understand or care about the opinion of others and that makes it weak. One never knows how deep that weakness maybe in the face of a new challenge.


India too has shown how it is racing with China based on ad-hoc policies without solving problems. Instead of making deals with China on pacifying Naga rebels and looking for a new transit route to the troubled North East, it could have done better if it had taken steps to resolve problems there. Cultivating new friends is excellent but hurting old ones in trying to do so is not being smart.

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