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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 16, New Delhi, April 3, 2021

Myanmar Army Rule | Harish Chandola

Friday 2 April 2021, by Harish Chandola

It is now over a month that the Burmese (Myanmar) army is out on its streets shooting its people who are all on strike, demanding restoration of its civilian rule, which the army had brought to an end in the beginning of last month. Over 300 people have been killed by the Army, called Tatmadaw, so far, after ousting its elected civilian government of Aung San Su Chi. The people have not given up their struggle against military rule. Before that only one community, the Rohingyas, were in revolt. Then the army general, Min Aung Hlaing, imposed army rule, against which hundreds of thousands have come out on the streets, which include civil servants, teachers, students, bank employees and the public in general.

 Army Abuses to suppress the people are being reported daily.

 The civil disobedience is not only in its capital, Yangon, its business capital, Rangoon, and its second largest city, Mandlay but all over the country, resulting in the killing of hundreds. The army is not shooting people in its capital, Napidaw only but all over where the people are struggling for the restoration of civilian rule. It has taken the same view as the army in next door country, Thailand, which rules that country.

   Its troops live in cantonments, which it inherited from the former rulers, the British. Since then, It has not seen a single year of peace, following the end of the second World War, when it became independent in 1948. Its minorities like the Karen and others have been in revolt since.

  It is now using woman and children as human shields in the fight against the people. Whatever press that is left is controlled by the army since last month.

     Its new ruler, General Min Aung Hlaing, believes in racial purity. The army has taken charge of all the country’s business, including smuggling of drugs, jade and gems and timber. Factories are under the army’s brutal control, after the coup of February 1.

  Internet and mobile phone services are all now closed since military rule. All activity is stopped in a brutal manner since February 1. Shops are empty and offices all closed.

  Resistance to the military rule has not developed yet.

     The military junta is now short of cash. Days after the coup, the Burmese Central Bank attempted to bring home dollars it had held in the General Reserve Bank in New York. American authorities did not allow that. On February 15, the Government sought to sell 200 billion kyats, amounting to one or two million of its five year bonds. It received just 1.7 billion kyats (Burmese currency) at a higher interest rate than normal.

That amount would have bought the country’s imports for five months. The country’s currency, kyat, is depreciating drastically. Foreign investment which had helped it bring in hard currency has all evaporated as a result of the military rule. It is unable to make any foreign investment because it has no foreign currency left. The army rule has brought foreign investments to an end. Its currency, the kyat, is depreciating fast. The Chinese who were showing some interest in investing are now no longer willing to come in.

     Even before the crisis and economic upheaval, the World Bank was projecting a budget deficit of 8.1 per cent of the G.D.P. this year. Since the disobedience movement has brought the economy o a standstill, Myanmar economic holdings have been severely dented. The army-controlled conglomerate is off target and the boycott movement has ended the collection of all taxes. The disobedience movement has brought the economy to a standstill.

  The Myanmar economic holdings have been dented since the army takeover. Conglomorates which were the country’s biggest tax payers have gone away. A subsidiary of it was the largest rural (village) bank, is now its biggest bank. The military junta is finding it difficult to finance its plans and schemes. These are the only sources of its revenue now.

  The smuggling of gems and timber, with the drug, amphetamine, are now its biggest exports.

  It is likely to ask soldiers to provide a tenth or a quarter of their salaries for Government funds. It is also likely to cut the already threadbare public services in order to meet its expenditure.

     The cutting of public services will lead to greater protests.

    From exports of gas and mineral oil, the junta will now finance its expenditure.

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