Foreign interventions and US-China power games prevented the consolidation of democracy in Myanmar and rendered the country vulnerable to military coups, Turkish experts on Asian affairs said Tuesday. 

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Seyfettin Erol, a senior expert at the Ankara Centre for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM), argued that American-Chinese rivalry in the Asia-Pacific Rim was the main reason behind the recent military coup in Myanmar.

Noting that the coup exposed China’s influence in Myanmar and the Asia-Pacific in general, Erol said: “The military coup is a show of power against the US and some other Western countries. On the other hand, the White House’s reaction against the coup has rather something to do with losing a significant position than worrying about the state of democracy or human rights in Myanmar.”

“Through the ports it built in Myanmar, China has been able to bypass the Strait of Malacca and access the Indian Ocean. Preserving its influence in the country against other powers, including America and India, allows China to be a major player in the wider Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

Erol also warned that ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar, primarily Rohingya Muslims, could be used to press the country’s military regime and China, and this could lead to an escalation of suppressive policies.

Hayati Unlu, a scholar of Asian affairs, agreed that the strategic rivalry between the US and China in the Asia-Pacific and the importance of Myanmar in this context are key to understanding the military coup.

“Myanmar is an essential part of China’s global ambition owing to its location,” he said.

Nazmul Islam, a senior regional expert, said he would expect more bloodshed and turmoil in Myanmar as a result of the military coup.

“Most likely, the military will suppress the minorities, including Rohingya Muslims, even further to stay popular. This would delay a return to normality and cause more clashes,” he said.

Myanmar’s military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, declared a state of emergency on Monday, hours after detaining the country’s de facto leader and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior members of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Suu Kyi served as State Counsellor of Myanmar from 2016 to 2021 following a long struggle for democracy in the nation that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. But her silence over the massacre of Rohingya Muslims and defense of the military’s genocide at the international court drew harsh criticism across the globe.

The coup took place hours before the first session of the country’s new parliament was set to convene following elections last November in which Suu Kyi’s NLD party made sweeping gains. The military claimed the coup was staged due to “election fraud” in the polls, which it said resulted in the dominance of the NLD in parliament.

The US, UK, UN and EU also condemned the move, calling for a reversal of the military’s actions.

*Writing by Ahmet Gencturk in Ankara

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