Don’t Believe What the Defenders of Myanmar’s Junta Say
As the Burmese junta has faced growing pressure from the international community, pro-military voices have sought to polish the irretrievably tarnished image of the Burmese military. Recently, they have become more active in disseminating narratives favorable to the military, called the Sit-tat by the Burmese people, to international audiences. Some shared these narratives in the media. Some brought them up to policymakers. Some distributed them in discussion rooms. Despite the use of different platforms, their narratives invariably echo arguments put forth by the military junta since the first day of the coup.
In their narratives, the Sit-tat is perennially portrayed as “the essential national force” and “the force of stability.” They state that only the military can preserve territorial integrity and ensure national unity and stability. Their narratives defend the military coup as constitutionally justified by the repeated failures of the government under the National League for Democracy (NLD) party to resolve electoral irregularities alleged by the Sit-tat. Some even go further, claiming that the Sit-tat remains committed to the democratic transition mandated by the 2008 constitution, and state that it will hold new elections during the promised time frame. These voices promote the notion that it is impossible to exclude the Sit-tat from the political space in Burma as it is the only force capable of restoring democracy to the country. At the same time, they also discredit the National Unity Government (NUG) and the People Defense Forces (PDF) as “terrorist organizations” perpetrating acts of violence and undermining the stability of the country.
Some of the shrewder pro-military voices position arguments around trending issues such as “the geopolitical significance of Burma in the Indo-Pacific strategy” and “the unsuccessful United States intervention in Afghanistan.” The key aim of these narratives is to convince the international community, especially the West and democratic countries, to re-engage with the Sit-tat based on the argument that they will lose leverage over the generals as Burma enters the embrace of China.