Speculations of military intervention in the political process of Myanmar are growing hard to ignore. This buzz is growing louder with the military operation against Rohingyas following the October attack on a Rakhine border post and later the assassination of U Ko Ni, political adviser of ruling party leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Due to the uncertain political situation, foreign direct investment has dropped to one-third in the country. There are rumors that the first democratically elected government could end within just two years. The current constitution has provision that enables the army to overthrow the government in case of any state security crisis, which might very well be exercised. Although Myanmar’s state councilor and de facto ruler Suu Kyi took several initiatives to change the provision, in the end she chose a go-slow policy. After the assassination of Ko Ni, she is more cautious than before. Whether or not the army is secretly behind this assassination, is now the common discussion. (Also read: Who killed Ko Ni? ) Suu Kyi is trying to avoid conflict with the military as much as possible, and so made no public statement on the Ko Ni murder. She attended the funeral and avoided the media.
A businessman and former army officer in Yangon commented that whoever is behind the murder of Myanmar’s top legal expert and Muslim leader U Ko Ni, had a special motive. On the one hand, U Ko Ni was working with the ruling party NLD to change the constitution. On the other hand, he was highly active as a member of the Kofi Anan commission, working towards a solution to the Arakan crisis. This assassination not only sent a message to the government on the Kofi Anan commission and the Arakan issue, but also stopped any attempt by NLD to amend the constitution or take any bold decision on either of the issues.
According to the former army officer, a lot of those aims have been achieved through the Ko Ni murder, apart from one. The other objective was to create a security issue. In general, it was perceived that Muslims would be outraged and provoked by the assassination of someone like Ko Ni. People behind this incident chose a Chinese Burmese as the killer. After the incident, he was arrested. Muslims all over the country attended U Ko Ni’s funeral and paid respect to him. But there was no violent behavior against the Chinese or any violent repercussions in general. No security crisis emerged in Yangon or anywhere else. Such a situation would provide scope for constitutional moves to dissolve the government and would have been definitely be exercised, the businessman felt.
The ongoing operation in Arakan started on the premise that a Rohingya militant group could have been behind the incident on the Rakhine border checkpoint attack where nine policemen were murdered. Another veiled agenda might be behind this security situation involving Rohingyas. After the incident, the previous army-backed ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) with some other parties called for a National Security Council on the “State Situation”. This statement discreetly urged the army to intervene. The National Security Council has more military representatives than civilians.
Top administrative officials of the Than Shwe government knew that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) will come to power in a free election. They were thinking that 25 percent reserved seats for army plus USDP will win at least in some of the seats in parliament that won’t allow Suu Kyi to have a two-third majority that is required to amend the constitution. But their hopes were dashed by the election results. Due to constitutional restrictions, Suu Kyi herself was not a presidential candidate but still, she didn’t rush for a constitution change. Instead, she created the office of the State Council on Ko Ni’s advice. With that position, she can now be the de facto leader of the government. Ko Ni proposed several more amendments which included changing the article which bars Suu Kyi to be the president and remove the part that gives army power to overthrow the government.
The military seemed anxious that the government might already start with the procedure for this. To prevent them from going ahead with the change, the two-year waiting period might be brought forward. After the democratic reform investors who went to Myanmar aren’t unaware of the latest development. As a result, foreign investment in Myanmar in recent months has dropped drastically. China’s official newspaper Global Times mentioned in a report that in the first nine months of 2016-17 fiscal year set to end next March, only 3.5-billion-dollar foreign investment has been registered. But at the same period of last year, this amount was 9.5 billion dollars. Investors now will wait and watch before investing.
The country’s largest investor China apparently also took a go-slow policy. Although this was attributed to slow progress in the economic reform program, the main cause was political uncertainty. Put more precisely it is apprehension of military intervention. This time even if the army does not enforce martial law, a situation will be created so that NLD will not receive the same majority in next election. However, they will maintain democracy as long as western countries support them. If those countries withdraw their support then Myanmar quite possibly will return to its old structure.
Considering these possibilities and misgivings, Suu Kyi has decided to remain silent over the last few months. She does not want to be involved in military conflicts. But this dilemma will not just go away with her silence. Suu Kyi’s fate also hangs in uncertainty.