The world is finally standing up for Aung San Suu Kyi

It may be an impossible task to restore Aung San Suu Kyi’s reputation, but Burma’s generals have made a sterling effort this week, after they sentenced her to at least two years in jail. This time last year Suu Kyi, a former Nobel peace prize winner, was a fallen icon. Her lack of sympathy and concern for the plight of Rohingyas in her country and, worse, her defence of the army’s brutal repression and massacres of them (she even appeared on the army’s behalf at the International Court of Justice in the Hague) had disillusioned her admirers. Many of the peace awards she received were revoked, including the European Parliament’s

Myanmar is on the verge of collapse

Deep in south-east Asia sits a country where 54 million people are living a total nightmare. A nation that, benighted for decades, now faces a humanitarian catastrophe. Myanmar – otherwise known as Burma – has been hit by a quadruple whammy: a military coup, a half-century long civil war reignited with a vengeance, economic collapse and coronavirus. It faces a dire humanitarian emergency fuelled by coup, collapse, civil war and Covid. Since the coup on 1 February, over 900 people have been killed by the army and over 5,000 jailed. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced after the military unleashed an aerial bombardment on ethnic minorities on a scale not

Myanmar is on the brink of civil war

For more than two months now Myanmar has been convulsed by a burgeoning civil war. The confrontation between the country’s military and large parts of the country has little prospect of an early resolution unless China and Russia withdraw their support for the junta, which jettisoned a five-year power-sharing arrangement with Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. The country’s armed forces evicted the National League for Democracy from office in February but have failed to consolidate the coup d’etat. The younger generation of Myanmarese have tasted a decade of democracy and freedom — they show little sign of buckling. The men in uniform ruled oppressively from 1962 for nearly half a

Myanmar’s killing fields and the weakness of the west

The killing fields of south-east Asia are tragically alive and kicking. Pol Pot, the butcher of Cambodia, may be long cremated. But the military in Myanmar are maintaining his heinous heritage. On Saturday, they indiscriminately gunned down over 100 people, including children. It was the bloodiest sequence in two months of continuous brutality, which has led to the deaths of at least 400 civilians. The demonstrators’ only crime has been to object to the unlawful overthrow of an elected government by the murderous men in uniform. The khaki has tragically trampled over this land of rich natural resources for much of its existence since independence from Britain in 1948. ‘The continuing military

The Lady I knew: Aung San Suu Kyi’s tragedy

Shakespeare’s tragedies have heroes but they are not heroic. As the plays unfold you witness their crumbling. In fact, they destroy themselves because the flaw is embedded deep in their character. It’s an inevitable and irresistible process. It’s an outcome that cannot be prevented. That’s why it’s tragic. I think that could also be true of Aung San Suu Kyi. I’ve known her since I was five. At the time, her mother was the Burmese Ambassador in India, and Suu, as I have always called her, was an undergraduate at Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College. Our parents became friends and Suu and my sister Kiran would often drive together to

Will Burma’s Buddhist monks help bring an end to the military coup?

In what could transpire to be a significant development, Buddhist monks joined tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters in the Burmese capital of Rangoon on Wednesday. This is the sixth continuous day of mass demonstrations since the military seized control. In a country where over 80 per cent of the population are Buddhists – and devoutly so – men of the cloth are influential. In fact, saffron-robed monks taking to the streets in 2007 paved the way for an end to 49 years of military rule in Burma in 2011. Along with China, they are key to restoring democracy in the south-east Asian state. On 1 February Burmese generals again

Is China’s hidden hand behind the Myanmar coup?

Was China involved in the coup in Myanmar? It seems unlikely, but that does not mean Beijing is blameless. As satisfying as it might be to point the finger at an omnipotent and scheming superpower, the reality is rather more complicated. After all, for all the shenanigans associated with China’s wolf-warrior diplomacy, Beijing is not as reckless or revisionist in its ambitions as it was back in the mid-to-late-60s.  Back then, amidst the chaos of the cultural revolution, Mao set about spreading his revolutionary thought abroad. Myanmar was firmly in his sights. In Southeast Asia, Beijing supplied communist guerrillas with money, weapons and training in an effort to instigate civil wars. In

Portrait of the week: Variants, vaccines and goodbye to Captain Sir Tom Moore

Home About 80,000 people in eight places in Surrey, London, Kent, Hertfordshire, Southport and Walsall were asked in door-to-door visits to take tests after the South African variant of coronavirus was found in these areas. Another mutation was found in the Kent variant. At the beginning of the week, Sunday 31 January, total UK deaths (within 28 days of testing positive for the coronavirus) had stood at 105,571, including 8,242 in the past week. Numbers in hospital fell. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was found to have a substantial effect on the spread of the virus. By Sunday 31 January, 8,977,329 first-dose vaccinations had been given, and 491,053 second doses. All elderly

Coup de grâce: the downfall of Aung San Suu Kyi

Coup? What coup? The early morning takeover of Myanmar on Monday by the Tatmadaw (Burmese army) barely deserves the name. The word ‘coup’ suggests that Myanmar was being ruled by a civilian and democratic government before now. It was not. Although Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in ‘free’ elections in 2015, the constitutional revision implemented by the military in 2008 meant that Tatmadaw retained 25 per cent of seats in both houses of the national assembly. More pertinently, whatever the outcome of elections, Tatmadaw reserved its rights to three ministries: home affairs, border affairs and defence. Furthermore, in a move aimed squarely at

Will Myanmar’s military get away with their coup?

In 1962 the Myanmar military staged a coup d’etat. Their iron-fisted rule lasted 49 years. On Monday, after a nine-year interlude when they remained covertly in control, they have officially and overtly retaken power. Min Aung Hlaing, who has been commander-in-chief of the armed forces since 2011, is now directly at the helm of a renewed dictatorship. Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s President Win Myint and numerous others of the ruling National League for Democracy party are under arrest. The military television station announced there will be a one year state of emergency. Ostensibly fresh elections will be organised. But given their track record, the word of