From genocide to military dictatorship: what is happening in Myanmar?

Myanmar, or Burma as many people might remember it, is a country that has been growing through many changes since the 20th century. Not only the name has changed, but the political situation has been changing ever since the end of the military dictatorship in 2011. From 1962, when there was a coup d’etat which ended the democratic rule that had existed in the country from the moment it became independent from Great Britain, to 2011 the country was under strict military rule. Now a similar situation has occurred, whereas the military has done a coup to take over the democratic government and to make the country governed by the military.

What happened during the coup that started on Monday 1st of February?

The Myanmar military, called Tatmadaw, arrested the leader of Myanmar at the time: Aung San Suu Kyi. She became the leader of Myanmar in 2016 when her party, NLD (National League for Democracy), won the democratic elections. She has been trying to reform the country to a democratic state, which it had not been during the 26 year military rule. But who is Aung San Suu Kyi? She is the youngest daughter of Aung San, who played a very big role in the fight of independence for Myanmar and was seen as the Father of modern Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi became a prominent figure in the fight against the military rule in 1988 during the 8888 uprisings, which were enormous protests against the military rule in Myanmar. Subsequently, she formed the NLD together with other critics of the military junta. In 1990 the NLD won the elections with a great majority of 81 percent, but the military government refused to hand over power and she was detained and placed under house arrest, which would continue for 15 years. She became a very famous political prisoner and also received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 2015 she rose back to power when the NLD, again, won the elections with a great majority. However, Aung San Suu Kyi has recently been criticized, since she continued to deny and defend the genocide of Rohingya people in Myanmar. In her interview she stated that it was an “incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation”. 

On the 1st of February 2021, Aung San Suu Kyi was thus arrested with charges of illegally importing walkie talkies and for breaching natural disaster management law by interacting with a crowd during the covid-19 pandemic. The military took over control, because, according to them, the recent elections, where Aung San Suu Kyi won with a great majority, had been frauded. However, several on-lookers stated there was no sign of fraud in the elections. The military said it wanted to restore democracy and that it will hand over the rule to the party that wins the elections. In the meantime, it has proclaimed a state of emergency in the whole country for one year. Protests have sprouted due to the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and many people have been taking to the streets. The military has been breaking up these protests violently and at least 600 people have died due to this, with March 27th as the deadliest day so far with more than a hundred (100) deaths. 

The international community, including the European Union, UK and USA, condemns the military coup and have responded with sanctions on the military officials. The statement of the UN Security Council to condemn the coup was vetoed by China. However, China has backed up the demand of releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and the return of democratic standards in Myanmar. On April the 24th 2021, the much- anticipated ASEAN summit in Jakarta discussed the Myanmar crisis. The leaders urged the junta chief of Myanmar to end the violent attacks and resolve the crisis in accordance with a five- point “consensus”. 

The protests in Myanmar continued to be met with violence and can lead to more deaths the upcoming weeks or even months. However, it does not seem this issue will be resolved any time soon due to the complexity of the economic and political implications. 

For futher reading:

https://www.nytimes.com/article/myanmar-news-protests-coup.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-55902070

Picture by Getty Images, February 1 2021

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