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Coups have no place in our modern world – whether in Myanmar or Malaysia

Why are many Asean leaders slow to denounce any form of government formed through coups?

Protest in Sule pagoda in downtown Yangon this afternoon

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It is time to remind the Perikatan Nasional government in Malaysia what the UN secretary-general said in his warning to the Myanmar military.

Antonio Guterres said that “coups have no place in our modern world”, as he told the junta in Myanmar to return the democratically elected government to the people immediately.

Meanwhile, Western nations are seriously considering economic sanctions if the military leaders remain in denial.

Back in Malaysia, we need to repeat Guterres’ timely warning. The prime minister needs to be told that he led a coup in February 2020 in the Sheraton Move that ousted Pakatan Harapan government, which was democratically elected by the people.

Each day, Muhyiddin Yassin clings on to power with his clutch of co-plotters. There can no justification for the political coup – even if anything good comes from his leadership.

By virtue of Malaysia’s membership in the Asean fraternity, Muhyiddin cannot use the cover of “non-interference” in sovereign matters, as is often the excuse.

As pointed out by the UN secretary-general, as long as a group of people take power through a coup – no matter however peaceful they claim it was – such a coup has no place in the modern, democratic world.

Asean cannot be an exception, and leaders of the member countries must shun such power grabs.

The sooner we can reset the big mistake in Malaysia, the better for everyone.

Meanwhile, we witness the serious developments in Myanmar as the people there remain united in their struggle for democracy, civil liberties and justice to humanity despite military and police threats.

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Asean leaders must not fail the region’s people

As the military coup in Myanmar drags on with a string of civilians already killed by live bullets, leaders of democratic nations outside the Asean fraternity must unequivocally and uncompromisingly voice out their stand in defence of democracy.

Within Asean a disturbing development has emerged: a certain Asean nation wants to push other Asean nations to get the Myanmar junta to keep to its promise of holding a fresh election – which may be seen as siding with the junta. .

The people of Myanmar are right to object to any support that may be given to the junta, which robbed them of a government that they democratically and overwhelmingly voted for.  

Why are many Asean leaders slow to throw in their support for democracy and to denounce any form of government formed through coups?

Asean’s 11 member states must recognise that Southeast Asia is their own bloc – one that can capitalise on the synergies of geography, culture, traditions and a long history. To do that, its leaders must be in sync with the UN secretary-general’s stand that any coup is against democracy.

Condemnation of such coups is not an option, but a categorical imperative here. If this is not taken seriously, then Asean could become more fragmented. This may turn out advantageous to any superpower aiming to increase its strategic influence and presence in this part of the world.

Those Asean member states that claim to have a democratically elected government should stop hiding behind the cover of “non-interference”. They must be quick to recognise that democracy is under siege and act before coup governments become the norm.

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The further erosion of democracy could destabilise the region.  

More democratic nations must use their influence to save Southeast Asia from slipping into more undemocratic or authoritarian governance.

Repatriation of Myanmar migrants was flawed

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government came under the spotlight of the global media once again for all for the wrong reasons.

First, the authorities violated a court ruling by sending back over a thousand undocumented migrants, which may have included asylum seekers. This erodes public trust and damages the process of justice.

Second, the very act of allowing naval vessels of the Myanmar junta to dock in our sovereign territory and to take back so many migrants reeks of a sense of irresponsibility. It also shows up the Malaysian government as not respecting human rights and the basic principles of democratic governance.

At a time when many nations have criticised the military regime’s bulldozing of fundamental democratic principles in Myanmar, the Malaysian authorities’ action raises suspicion and outrage.

Many around the world are wondering if Malaysia is condoning and indirectly recognising the military regime of Myanmar. Those world leaders who respect and uphold democracy and human rights may be asking why we are not respecting the fundamental tenets of democracy.

The Malaysian prime minister, who took power after a political coup, has further eroded the hopes and trust of Malaysians and tarnished the nation’s democratic credentials in the eyes of the region and the world. Is this what he meant by “I want to save (my) nation”?

Muhyiddin has to take personal and collective responsibility for this mess-up, which cannot be justified or glossed over.

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The Malaysian immigration head has to come out in the open to explain on what grounds, influence or direction he went against a court order.

In any decent nation, such a leader would immediately resign in shame.

Malaysians who believe in our Federal Constitution cannot be laidback or lukewarm on this issue, which has far-reaching consequences, even within Asean.  

Any delay in redress will further compound our ailing nation and will not help the region, which is under increasing pressure from geopolitical stress.

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