Undermining Burma’s Freedom Fighters: Debunking Harmful Conspiracy Theories

Undermining Burma’s Freedom Fighters: Debunking Harmful Conspiracy Theories


By Htawmonzel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia

Antonio Graceffo Reporting from the Burma border

In the heart of Burma, where tens of thousands have sacrificed their lives, and millions have been displaced by the ruthless attacks of the junta forces, ethnic resistance armies, and people’s self-defense forces fight to establish a federal democracy with equal rights for the 135 ethnic minorities.

Sadly, misguided conspiracy theories about the 2021 elections and the ensuing military coup have cast a shadow over the noble efforts of those fighting for democracy. These groundless allegations have unfortunately led many Americans to mistakenly perceive the pro-democracy camp as villains, falsely accusing them of attempting to steal the election. Such misconceptions not only undermine the legitimate struggles of pro-democracy forces but also deter Americans from supporting the rebels or taking a more proactive stance against the junta.

On November 8, 2020, Myanmar witnessed its second consecutive democratic election. In a landslide victory, the pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), secured re-election.

However, in February 2021, the military staged a coup, annulling the elections and detaining Aung San Suu Kyi along with prominent members of the party, including parliamentarians.

The most prominent conspiracy theory suggests that Burma utilized Dominion voting machines, alleging that Aung San Suu Kyi manipulated the machines to secure her victory. Some conspiracy theorists have even linked the Burmese election to the U.S. election, portraying the junta as the “good guys” in this narrative.

Firstly, Myanmar did not employ Dominion voting machines. Instead, they relied on paper ballots placed in wooden boxes, with approximately 80% of polling stations lacking electricity, let alone internet access. Secondly, aside from several very small ethnic minority parties that garnered minimal votes beyond their local regions, the election featured only two major parties: the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), backed by the military.

The people held a deep disdain for the army and harbored great admiration for Aung San Suu Kyi. It defies logic to suggest that after enduring a decades-long civil war to overthrow the army, they would then elect the very institution they sought to depose.

In 2021, following her arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi faced a range of charges leveled by the military junta. These accusations included illegally importing walkie-talkies, violating COVID-19 restrictions during the 2020 elections, and breaching a natural disaster law. The junta, albeit belatedly, asserted irregularities in the electoral process. However, international observers confirmed that while certain issues arose, such as ethnic minorities being denied voting rights due to lack of identification, there was no evidence of fraud. Furthermore, those unable to cast their votes would likely have supported Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. These charges were widely perceived as politically motivated and aimed at undermining her and her party.

A broader conspiracy alleges that Aung San Suu Kyi was involved in a nefarious alliance, purportedly collaborating with figures such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. The conspiracy extends to suggest that American Democrats stood to gain from Aung San Suu Kyi’s victory, with the term “deep state” frequently invoked in this narrative. Such claims border on absolute madness. In my interviews with numerous rebel soldiers, leaders, and civilians displaced by the junta, none were aware of any deep-state connections or the notion that they were somehow working for the Clintons. Their common sentiment revolved around their disdain for the junta’s violence and torture, all while longing for a democratically elected government.

Regarding the connection with Hillary Clinton, it’s important to note that the American Secretary of State regularly undertakes visits to numerous countries, with one of their key responsibilities being to advocate for democracy and monitor elections worldwide. Consequently, the Department of State releases reports evaluating the integrity of elections in various nations and the overall status of democracy globally. In this context, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi before the 2015 elections holds significance, marking Myanmar’s inaugural democratic election, which saw Suu Kyi’s party secure a significant victory. Similarly, following Suu Kyi’s decisive win in the 2020 elections, then-Secretary Pompeo promptly issued a congratulatory message to Myanmar, acknowledging it as a pivotal moment in the country’s democratic progression.

Some of the more informed conspiracy theorists assert that Aung San Suu Kyi’s popularity waned between the two elections, pointing to the Rohingya genocide as evidence of her mismanagement of the country.

What actually occurred is that, prior to the 2015 election, the generals revised the constitution, allocating certain parliamentary seats as appointed positions. While the NLD secured the majority of democratically elected seats, the military maintained veto authority. Consequently, Aung San Suu Kyi found herself unable to pass any legislation without the army’s approval.

When news of the Rohingya genocide received sudden coverage in the international press, many Americans pointed fingers at Aung San Suu Kyi. To be fair, she did make controversial statements at the International Court of Justice, deflecting blame from the government. Some interpreted this as a shrewd political move to steer clear of conflict with the military, enabling her to stay in power and aid the country. While external observers often viewed this as complicity, she retained her popularity in Burma.

What I personally observed was a transition from unwavering support for Aung San Suu Kyi to a more pragmatic stance of choosing the better of two options. Many ethnic minorities, who previously revered “The Lady,” began to view her as preferable to military rule but recognized her imperfections. However, the crucial constant remained: nobody was willing to vote for the army.

The genocides targeting numerous ethnic groups have persisted long before Aung San Suu Kyi’s electoral victory and continue even as she remains imprisoned. Over one million Rohingya still languish in internally displaced people’s camps (IDP) within Burma and in dire refugee camps in Bangladesh. Neither Aung San Suu Kyi, Dominion, Hillary, Barry, nor Dizzy Joe played any part in the Rohingya genocide.

The people of Burma have been sacrificing their lives for 70 years to overthrow the military regime and establish a federal democracy. They are not affiliated with the deep state, nor are they in collusion with the Clintons or any external forces. They are simply individuals who seek an end to the government’s violence and the destruction of their villages. Moreover, they yearn for peace and the fundamental right to vote.

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Author: Antonio Graceffo