Suu Kyi’s military trial begins in Myanmar
Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was tried behind closed doors this week, the first in a series of bogus charges clearly designed by the military junta to bolster its power and claim the international legitimacy of its dictatorship.
The February 1 military coup barred elected lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) from taking office, after what was officially confirmed as a landslide election victory last year.
The military justified its coup by alleging that Suu Kyi’s government failed to properly investigate the accusations of voting irregularities. Since then, he has claimed to have found evidence of fraud, but this claim has so far been rejected by various international agencies.
The trial is taking place against a background of continued repression against widespread popular opposition. Deputy United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haq said this week that a UN team on the ground estimated that at least 861 women, children and men had been killed since February 1 and thousands more. others injured. About 4,800 people are in detention, including politicians, teachers, health workers, government officials, journalists and ordinary citizens.
Suu Kyi’s attorneys said she was charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies for the use of her bodyguards, using radios without permission, and disseminating information that could provoke public alarm or commotion. There were also two counts of violating the Natural Disaster Management Act for allegedly violating the pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign.
Two more serious charges against Suu Kyi are dealt with separately. One is for violating the British Colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, and another for corruption, which carries a potential sentence of 15 years. imprisonment and a fine.
The procedure is an obvious travesty. Although Suu Kyi was first charged just days after the coup, she was not allowed to meet with her lawyers for the first time until May 24, when she first appeared. times in court for a pre-trial hearing. She only had one more brief meeting with them before the trial began on Monday.
Representatives of the ousted government, which was a partnership between the NLD and the military, are campaigning for intervention by the imperialist powers. Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, who continued to be recognized by this body despite being sacked after the coup, called for “effective collective measures” against the junta, before the expected UN Security Council talks on the crisis.
These calls underscore the fact that the orientation of the NLD and its alternative “government of national unity” in exile is not towards the youth and workers, who have led widespread strikes against the junta, but towards the same people. world powers that supported the previous power. -sharing arrangement between the NLD and the generals.
To overthrow the junta requires the mobilization of millions of workers, as well as the rural masses, to fight, not only for essential democratic rights, but for the improvement of social conditions, which were under attack by the military regime of the NLD. .
As has happened internationally, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified government and corporate attacks on jobs and working conditions for workers. Suu Kyi’s government has provided virtually no cash assistance to those hardest hit.
According to a survey conducted last October, the proportion of the population living in poverty (earning less than US $ 1.90 per day) rose from 16% to 63% in the previous eight months.
With the military takeover, the United Nations Development Program now expects half of Myanmar’s 55 million people to fall into poverty over the next six months, and the World Food Program fears that 3.5 million more people face hunger.
Essential drugs and treatments are reportedly extremely scarce, and by 2021 950,000 infants will not receive the vaccines they need against diseases such as tuberculosis and polio.
Since the pandemic broke, industries that working-class households depend on, such as tourism, have collapsed, as have migrant workers’ remittances abroad, which totaled around $ 2.4 billion. in 2019. The clothing industry, which employed over a million people, many of them young women, was devastated by the drying up of orders from Europe.
Within days of the coup, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, demanding an end to military rule. A civil disobedience movement emerged, with doctors leaving public hospitals, and quickly spread to the public sector. On February 22, a general strike closed businesses, including banks.
The army suppressed ruthlessly. During the last week of February, elite infantry divisions, including units responsible for ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya ethnic minority, began to settle in the towns, shooting at residents of residential areas, smashing doors and driving people away.
Nonetheless, the protests persisted. Young men and women erected makeshift barricades and brandished shields in defense. On March 14 alone, dozens of people were killed in Yangon’s industrial suburb of Hlaingthaya. On March 27, more than 100 people died when the army opened fire on crowds across Myanmar.
Amid the resistance, some protesters held up signs calling for “R2P”, referring to the “responsibility to protect”. It is a doctrine developed to justify imperialist intervention, supposedly to defend people against crimes against humanity. Hopes for such action have since vanished.
Some young people have since joined armed separatist groups based on ethnic minorities in border areas, but these have been overtaken by the military. With perhaps 75,000 fighters in total, they face an army of over 300,000, equipped fighter jets, drones and rockets.
Moreover, the struggle for democratic rights is linked to much broader political issues, including the overthrow of the divisive framework of nation-states imposed on the region by British colonialism and maintained by the local ruling classes, which are totally subservient. to the world capitalist powers.
In 1937, ten years before Pakistan was separated from India on religious lines, the British separated Burma from India on the basis of perceived racial differences. After gaining official independence in 1948, the Burmese elite retained a communalist policy, denying basic rights to those designated as “foreigners”, such as nearly a million Rohingyas, driven to neighboring Bangladesh.
Stuck in this Burmese Buddhist nationalism, Suu Kyi and the NLD defended the military atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims.
The military freed Suu Kyi in 2010, after 15 years of previous detention, and held elections under a constitution that guaranteed her continued hold over key levers of power. The Obama administration and its allies oversaw this undemocratic arrangement, seeking to deflect generals from ties to Beijing, as part of US imperialism’s offensive against China.
As this story demonstrates, the working class cannot trust Suu Kyi to defend democratic rights. No less than the generals, the leaders of the NLD fear a working class uprising that could threaten the capitalist regime. They represent sections of the capitalist class in Myanmar, whose lucrative interests have been crushed by the military, which controls large parts of the economy, including mining operations.
Myanmar is the world’s third largest source of exploited strategic rare earths. This not only provides income for the regime, but increases Myanmar’s strategic value to the United States and its allies in their conflict with China, which borders Myanmar to the north and east. Any imperialist intervention will seek to continue this confrontation, and not to defend the masses of Myanmar.
Therefore, rather than turning to the NLD’s “national unity government” or asking for help from Washington, Burmese workers must appeal to the international working class for their support and turn to the International Committee of the Fourth International for help in building the revolutionary movement. Socialist Party.