Myanmar, formerly known as Bruma, is a very ethnically diverse country located in South-Eastern Asia neighboring India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand. Right now, Myanmar is facing its third militaristic coup since the country’s establishment. In February 2021, the military, led by General Min Aung Hilang, seized and detained the president of Myanmar, leaving the country in a state of emergency. How did this happen, not only once, but 3 different times?
A Brief History of Myanmar
Myanmar was renamed from Bruma to Myanmar after the second coup by the military in 1988. Prior to this Myanmar was known as British Bruma, and was maintained under the control of Great Britain, whom they finally gained independence from on January 4, 1948. Most countries recognize Myanmar by its new name but because of the circumstances under which the name was changed, some countries including the U.S. do not acknowledge it. The people of Myanmar prefer this name and it is more widely accepted among citizens.
The Election of 1990
After its independence from Britain, Myanmar has endured a rocky relationship between militaristic control (a totalitarian one-party state government) and citizen-controlled governments (a democracy). A prime example of this occurrence takes place in 1988 when General Ne Win, abused the power of the military by mass slaughtering the protestors of the 8888 movement. The 8888 movement, also known as the 8-8-88 uprisings, was originally started by students to protest the brutal and unresponsive rule of the Burma Socialist Programme Party but tragically ended with countless citizen deaths. This event spurred future politician Aung San Suu Kyi to form the National League for Democracy (NLDP). Using the party Ms. Suu Kyi won the majority of seats (60 percent of the popular vote and 80 percent of parliamentary seats) in 1990, but the military, now ruling under a new government known as the State Law and Order Restoration Committee (SLORC), did not approve of the power she had gained and placed Ms. Suu Kyi under house arrest until July 1995. For her compliance, she gained support from the west, specifically the U.S and India. In 1991 she was then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her support of the democratic movement of Eastern Asia.
What Happened in 2008?
In 2008, the military proposed a new constitution that made the military more dominant in the government of Myanmar. They accomplished this by reserving 25% of the house seats in parliament for the military and altered the constitution so that all border security, interior security and, general security ministries were to be governed by the military. Furthermore, they added an article prohibiting any person whose children are citizens of another country from running for president. This rule was a direct attack on Aung San Suu Kyi, whose adult children are British citizens, making her ineligible to run as president in the 2010 election.
The Election of 2010 and 2015
In the 2010 election, the 2008 constitution was boycotted by the NLDP, specifically Ms. Suu Kyi. She was then released from house arrest once again to show the military her promise to democracy but was still not allowed to run for president. The next election was held in 2015 where Ms. Suu Kyi was appointed state counselor of Myanmar.
In order to usurp Ms. Suu Kyi, the military made a proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Doubt Party (USDP), to run against the NLDP in the 2015 election. The NLDP still won majority rule.
The Rohingya Crisis
The Rohingya Crisis was the brutal repression and persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state by the military. After the case being taken up with the International Court of Justice, Gambia was charged with crimes against humanity, during which Ms. Suu Kyi was politically forced to side with the military. This lead to Ms. Suu Kyi losing the public’s support and her Nobel Peace Prize.
So, What’s Happening Now?
During the election in November 2020, the NLDP gained more public support than in previous years. This made the USDP accuse the NLDP of electoral fraud. This idea was further pushed by the military and now, a coup has been staged by the military and Ms. Suu Kyi has been arrested because they believed the NLDP committed voter fraud in the 2020 election. This is NOT a rebellion as promoted by the media because it lacks civilian support or organization. The military does not have the support of the Myanmar people, in fact, thousands of Myanmar citizens have taken to the streets in peaceful protest only to be met with harsh, militaristic, retaliation.
What Does This Mean? Why Does This Hold Importance?
All relations with neighboring countries, specifically India and China will be affected. The countries in the West and China all are being pressured to side with the NLDP or the military (USDP). This can cause professional public goods and even the production of items in sweatshops to come to a halt. Other countries also need to take a stand, either side with the citizens of Myanmar or with the military, but countries do not want to do so because if the wrong side is chosen then all ties with Myanmar could be cut, depending on the outcome.
What Can We Do?
Myanmar’s military is still in charge of border and national security meaning the lives of immigrants and citizens who have relations outside the country are at risk. The people have been peacefully protesting the coup but it has been ineffective. We all need to work together and support the citizens of Myanmar by spreading their voices.