By Arun Kumar Shrivastav
Just when the world seemed to conveniently forget the military rule in Myanmar and the oppression, torture, and killing of pro-democracy protesters over the last 10 months, the indomitable spirit of freedom has spoken up.
The shadow government in Myanmar has accepted Tether’s stablecoin USDT as its currency. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that is tied with a stable currency or asset class. The USDT is tied to the US dollar, meaning the value of USDT doesn’t fluctuate like other cryptocurrencies. Rather, it’s equivalent to the US dollar at all times. However, it has all other features of a cryptocurrency. A USDT transaction can completely overpass surveillance and monitoring by governments and central banks.
With their decision to adopt a cryptocurrency as their legal tender, the supporters of Aung San SuuKyi, who have been protesting the military coup in February 2021, have further shown their intent and willingness to take on the military dictators in Myanmar.
SuuKyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the November 2020 general elections and before she could take charge of the new government, the military took over on 1 February 2021. SuuKyi is currently under detention at an undisclosed location and a military court has handed her a 4-year jail term, which was subsequently reduced to 2 years by the junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hliang.
The clash between protestors and the military has led the country to a complete breakdown of normal life. Harrowing stories of oppression and torture are coming from Myanmar which has been under the military rule for 50 years before SuuKyi became part of the government in 2016.
As per a report by Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 1303 protestors have been killed and 10,600 have been taken into custody by the military regime beginning February till December 6.
By choosing USDT as its official currency, the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) led by SuuKyi who happens to be away from the public view due to her detention, defies the country’s ban on cryptocurrency enforced by its central bank in May 2020. It also attracts the country’s draconian counter-terrorism laws.
With USDT as the medium, the NUG has launched a special bond to raise $1 billion aiming to use the money to support the civilian fight against the military rule. As per the reports, the fund collected close to $10 million within 24 hours of its launch.
The bloody protests and clashes over the last 10 months suggest that SuuKyi, the gritty 76-year-old Nobel laureate who spent 15 years under detention fighting for democracy in her country, is not going to give up confronting the junta government that has been in power for most part of the last 60 years.
Her use of cryptocurrency in this long-drawn battle for democracy highlights one very important thing: Cryptocurrencies are designed to circumvent control and monitoring.
No wonder, SuuKyi has found it a powerful weapon to fight the military with. Apple co-founder once described bitcoin as a mathematical miracle that is better than gold. SuuKyi’s tryst with USDT might prove that cryptocurrencies are mathematical equations that can also upset political equations. The NUG’s USDT experiment clearly underscores that cryptocurrencies can shape the political future of a country.
The use of the “currency of the future” makes her fight relevant and contemporary for the generation-now that may have totally missed out on the greatness and exploits of SuuKyi as a political leader.
The indomitable spirit of the frail-looking younger daughter of General Aung San who founded the Myanmar Armed Forces and led the country to freedom from British rule has a deep India connection. A follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Buddhist principles, SuuKyi has studied in Delhi for her school and graduation.
The shadow government Myanmar announced the onboarding of USDT on Facebook, which has been the most important media outlet in the war between the pro-democracy supporters and the military government. Most traditional media outlets have either closed down or are functioning under strict military surveillance. After the coup, Meta Platforms Inc. (Facebook) had announced to ban all businesses and offices linked to the junta government in Myanmar from its platforms. However, both sides are still using Facebook in their fight against each other.
Named Spring Revolution Special Treasury Bonds, the crypto fund launched by SuuKyi National Unity Government is structured like a direct lending instrument. It has collected $9.5 million in 24 hours of its launch, mainly from Myanmar Diaspora. Due to high demand for the bonds, the sales were briefly stopped until December 6. Now, the NUG plans to sell these bonds in different countries by appointing official representatives.
To conclude, let’s remember what the Norwegian Nobel Committee said about Aung San SuuKyi while awarding her Nobel Peace Prize for 1991.
“… SuuKyi’s struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression …”. (IPA Service)