Written by Saffron May-B
It has been a heart wrenching two months for the people of Myanmar since the military usurped the country’s first democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the rest of the National League for Democracy political party. They had just won their second term when, on February 1st, army general Min Aung Hlaing seized control and imprisoned several high ranking officials along with the leader.
Since then, civilians have flooded the streets in protest of the uprising and have been met with some horrific acts of violence by the newly emboldened military. An international student from Myanmar told the Politics Hour that civilians in her home country were being wrongfully imprisoned, tortured, and killed on a regular basis. As I am writing this, the death toll is over 700 people, with the deadliest day on record having 114 citizens, 11 of which were children, losing their lives.
“We’re exposed to a lot of atrocities on a regular basis…the Burmese people around the world are seeing bleeding people on social media or in front of their eyes every day”
This is a humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes and the sentiment felt by the people of Myanmar is that the world at large does not care. Or at the very least, does not care enough to warrant a meaningful response. In spite of statements made against the actions of the military made by state leaders around the world, including Boris Johnson, they are still being acknowledged as the government of Myanmar, as opposed to the National Unity Government, which is the leadership that the citizens at large actually recognise. This means that they have an even bigger platform from which they can push their own agendas and propaganda.
However, the feelings of frustration, anger and sorrow are accompanied by resilience and defiance against the new rule, with citizens still protesting through civil disobedience and key worker strikes, in and amongst all of the chaos.
Even prior to the coup, the military was already very much integrated into many different factions of the government. Making the take over, even from a power prioritising view, unnecessary. The lack of tangible consequence to their actions has only made them secure in the knowledge that they can go even further with their agendas and violence, whilst still remaining comfortable in the international community.
To show the bigger picture of we can and do defer back to international political theorists, whose job it is to find patterns in what seems to be utter chaos. I spoke with Dr Nicholas Lees from the University of Liverpool, who looks at these types of conflicts as they occur around the world. Clearly, internal human rights abuses are nothing new, but the existence of international peacekeeping bodies should in theory have a hand in stopping them. The challenge they face however, is if the state resists involvement from an international body, the only option to continue would be through a forceful military intervention, which are famously unpopular due to a perceived lack of success.
For now, the best thing that we as an international community can do is continue to show support for democratic movements in Myanmar. The people are having to fund their own defence force and federal army in a David and Goliath-esque situation, so falling short of humanitarian intervention, providing aid should be a top priority.
Listen to both interviews in the extended feature here on the Liverpool Politics Hour Spotify page.