Myanmar’s military coup is no surprise. Democracy there was built on very weak foundations and always destined to fail
Seasoned Myanmar observers will not see this development as a surprise. Since its independence from British rule in 1948, this is a country that has been beset by chaos, and marred by weak institutional structures and inter-ethnic conflict that have only been partially patched together by its military.
Put simply, the democratic experiment has failed, as the state does not have the underlying stability for it to work in practice. From here, we should expect immediate confrontation between the new junta and the West, with the Joe Biden administration almost certain to exert pressure against it. This will, in turn, increase its reliance on China – a scenario which preceding administrations have sought to undo.
The woes of Myanmar – or Burma, as it was previously known – can be directly traced back to the legacy of British rule over the country prior to the 1940s. In the 19th century, the British gradually conquered the Burmese dynasty of Konbaung and incorporated it as part of India, not granting it separate status until the 1930s.
As was the case with many post-Imperial countries throughout the world, the British replaced traditional forms of government with a colonial nation state model, often with artificially imposed borders which negligently painted over numerous ethnic and religious divisions. The British called the colony Burma after the predominant ethnic group within it – but not the only one.
As a result, the independence of Burma created a state with weak institutions and a fragile local legitimacy which was unable to reconcile the different groups who lived there.
This had two consequences: firstly, the military became its most politically influential institution, as it was the only means by which the state could be held together. Secondly, this influence, and the divisions within the country, has created longstanding ethnic conflict.
The country’s military are, not surprisingly, very pro-Beijing, and Myanmar’s inevitable alienation from the West will thus consolidate its reliance on China, especially in terms of trade and investment.
Yet this is not so much a grand strategic plan from either side, as it is the consequence of a country that has struggled to find basic stability since its modern existence. Military rule has always held this broken nation together, and attracted great disapproval in the process.https://www.rt.com/op-ed/514268-myanmar-military-coup-democracy/