The Government of Sri Lanka has invited the Foreign Minister of Myanmar, which is currently under military rule, to attend the Ministerial Meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).
Myanmar has been invited to this ministerial meeting which is hosted and chaired by Sri Lanka, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena. Myanmar civil society activists have strongly criticized this call by the Sri Lankan government to the Military rule in Myanmar. There were also a lot of heated discussions over this on social media.
In a press release issued on these social media reports, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that Sri Lanka, as the Chairperson and Host of this Ministerial Meeting, will attend the discussions with a view to finalizing the documents on the 5th BIMSTEC Conference to be held in Sri Lanka later this year. Sri Lanka has invited all member countries.
In a press release issued on these social media reports, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that Sri Lanka, as the Chairperson and Host of this Ministerial Meeting, has invited all member countries for the discussions with a view to finalizing the documents on the 5th BIMSTEC Conference, which is to be held in Sri Lanka later this year.
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand were also invited, the foreign ministry said.
Below is the full media statement of the Ministry of External Affairs;
“There have been reports on social media platforms in regard to an invitation extended to the Foreign Minister of Myanmar to attend the 17th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting hosted virtually on 1st April 2021, in Colombo.
Sri Lanka as the Chair of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the host of the Ministerial Meeting has invited all Member States (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand) to participate in the discussions in order to finalize documents of the 5th BIMSTEC Summit expected to be held later this year in Sri Lanka.”
Suppression of protests
Myanmar is currently ruled by a non-democratic military regime. Its leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been arrested and is being detained. Myanmar public has been protesting against the military rule, and many protesters have been shot dead by the army. Also, a large number of journalists and civil activists have been arrested.
A Myanmar police officer who fled to India had told the media that he and other officers had been ordered to shoot the protesters.
More than 50 civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 detained in the protests, foreign media reported.
A corrupted election!
On the morning of February 1, the Myanmar military seized control of the country, arresting Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and several other politicians. Despite Suu Kyi’s National Democratic League (NLD) winning enough seats to form a government in last November’s election, the military has accused it of electoral fraud.
Then Senior General Min Aung took over the government. But he has yet to present any evidence that a fraud has taken place in the November election. Earlier, the country’s Election Commission had repeatedly denied such allegations, but the military threatened to ‘take action’ on election fraud soon. Election Commission officials have also been detained by the military.
The NLD won a majority of 83% of the seats in the November 8 election, with many believing it was a referendum on Suu Kyi’s civilian government.
After gaining independence from the British Empire in 1948, under the Burmese Independence Army as a democratic nation, a constitutional government was established and U Nu was nominated as the Prime Minister of Independent Myanmar.
The civilian government under U Nu failed to maintain the unity within the country, amid ethnic issues, corruption and several other difficulties. In 1958, a split within the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL), threatened to provoke a coup from military officers and therefore U Nu had to invite the military to form a caretaker government under General Ne Win and it continued until 1960.
The civilian government formed by U Nu after the election in 1960, could not resolve the prevailing issues which ultimately led to the coup on 2nd March 1962, under General Ne Win. This led to end the democratic ruling in Myanmar, commencing a direct military reign under General Ne Win.
A series of protests cracked out in Myanmar Myanmar in 1988 over the corruption of military personnel, police brutality, military dictatorship and many other serious issues. It was also known as the ‘8888 uprising ‘. This is because the main events of the protest took place on August 8, 1988.
During this crisis, Ms Aung Sang Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon. When the military regime arranged an election in 1990 to resolve the situation, her party, National League for Democracy (NLD) won 392 seats out of a total of 492 (81%). However, the military junta did not accept the results, and continued to rule the country as the State Law and Order Restoration Council, denying the judgment of the public and Suu Kyi was put under house arrest.
In November 2010, the junta held elections and the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) claimed the victory. Many other parties including Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD did not take any part in that. A week later the elections, Suu Kyi was released after spending 16 years of her last 20 years under house arrest.
In 2011, the junta made a surprise move to relinquish the power to a quasi-civilian government, under former general Thein Sein. Many basic rights were restored, including lifting restrictions on assembly and expression.
Accused of ethnic cleansing!
In August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled the country for their lives and the Myanmar’s military was held responsible for this genocide by the international organizations.
They repeatedly denied these allegations and stated that the military was fighting Rohingya militants and denied targeting civilians. Atleast 6700 Rohinghya, including 730 children at least died in this catastrophe.
Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991, who once stood as a human rights icon, was too held responsible for this chaos as she was the leader of Myanmar during that time.
On 2nd October 2018, the honorary citizenship she had been granted by Canada was removed as she was accused of not standing up against the discriminations against the Rohingya Muslims and over alleged imprisonment of two Reuter journalists who revealed the discriminations that the Rohingya community was suffering under her reign.