The on-going crackdown in Myanmar is just now the biggest concern of those devoted to protection of democratic and human rights. The brutal crackdown by the junta unwilling to accept the strong electoral verdict in favor of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy has already claimed 500 lives within a short period.
As many as nearly 100 human lives were lost in a single day of crackdown, and among those who are dying in repressive actions must be several of the most courageous and most noble persons, including youths who have so much to contribute in future to their society and country. Hence the loss is very great indeed.
If this trend continues one shudders to think of what will happen over the next one or two months. And yet there is no evidence of any international response which would appear to be effective in checking this crackdown very soon. As the military has simply refused to recognize one of the most convincing electoral victories there does not seem to be any early resolving of contested issues at local level either.
Certainly a big support of people worldwide for the protesting people, for the National League of Democracy and for Suu Kyi is needed. Some human rights activists have held back their earlier whole-hearted support because they are not happy about the stand taken by Suu Kyi and her party on issues relating to rights and protection of minorities particularly the Rohingyas. They may have a point in so far as injustice to Rohingyas must clearly end and they as well as other threatened minorities need better protection and rights. However significant and justified this concern may be this should not become the reason just now to hold back support for the people demanding the basic democratic right of their elected representatives being allowed to form a government.
The experience of Myanmar is not an isolated one as whenever there have been brutal repressions in the past, the international community has often failed to take effective action to check this. This reflects a wider failure of democracy and democratic forces at world level. According the V-Democracy ( Varieties of Democracy) multi-dimensional indexing of world democracy trends , global decline in liberal democracy has been steep during the last decade. Electoral autocracy is now the most common type of governance/government. As the latest V-democracy report has stated, a major shift has been caused by the very recent change in the status of India with its large population. India ,formerly the world’s largest democracy with 1.37 billion people, has turned in this index now into an electoral autocracy, the report says, and with this the number of people living under electoral autocracy at world level has increased very significantly, implying a major loss for democracy at world level. Now the number of people living in electoral autocracy and closed autocracy in world has increased to 68 per cent of world population, while the number of those living in electoral democracy is 19 per cent and the number of those living in liberal democracy is just 14 per cent of world population.
So in the present world situation where over two thirds of the world population is living under closed and electoral autocracies, the overall violation of democratic norms in most countries is likely to be so serious that they hesitate to oppose bigger crackdowns in other countries, or else offer only limited support.
However the actual situation of democracy in world may be even worse that what is captured by V-Democracy indexing. What it does not capture is that some of the most powerful western countries have been sabotaging the democracy in Third World countries and many coups and other more prolonged efforts aimed at instigating the downfall of democratic, popular Third World governments ( or at least increasing their difficulties greatly) were in fact supported in various ways, in some cases even masterminded, by powerful western countries.
Secondly several of these governments have been in the forefront of supporting and promoting the most undemocratic and harmful domination of giant multinational companies in critical areas. In some cases their anti-democratic actions in Third World countries were triggered by the desire to support and protect the narrow economic interests of giant multinationals.
Hence the overall condition of world democracy is deeply worrying and one reflection of this is that the capacity of world democracy and its commitment to check crackdowns such as the one being seen in Myanmar these days has become very limited. While it is important to mobilize all support to the extent possible to protest against the crackdown of the junta in Myanmar, the wider challenge of strengthening genuine democracy at world level must also be realized and accepted with all seriousness and deep commitment.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.