In February of this year, protests erupted throughout Myanmar in response to the military seizing control of the government. This triggered international outrage as the world watched the military use rubber bullets, water cannons, and even live ammunition on protesters. With many still seemingly unaware of the situation, here is a brief outline of the restrictions currently in place within the country, as well as a summary explanation of what is currently happening.
The protests are a response to the military seizing control on February 1st
Since the mid-20th century, Myanmar has gone back and forth between military and civilian leadership, and certain figures have been struggling for democracy for a long time. Myanmar’s most recent civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was a fervent advocate for democratic leadership, and she originally received global support for her agenda. She later went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Suu Kyi is certainly not without controversy. In 2017, she did not challenge the military in their genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslims, which caused worldwide alarm. Many called for her Nobel Peace Prize to be rescinded.
Ultimately, running on a campaign to restrict the military in their political role, Suu Kyi won the 2020 election in a landslide. And, due to the nature of her political agenda, the military viewed this as an aggressor to their power. Hence, on 1st February 2021, Myanmar Armed Forces deemed the election results illegitimate and launched what many world leaders are calling a coup d’état.
Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials have been detained
Aung San Suu Kyi, the legally elected civilian leader of Myanmar, has been detained by the military. Other members of her party – the National League for Democracy – have also been arrested. The top military commander, Min Aung Hlaing, has seized power.
According to the BBC, Suu Kyi is being held in an ‘undisclosed location’, and in order to do this, the military has accused her of various crimes. These include publishing harmful information and breaking COVID-19 restrictions when campaigning.
The country is currently facing one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks, and authorities have imposed stay-home restrictions in various locales. Breaking curfew in particular areas could potentially mean jail time.
Some have seen the country’s harsh COVID restrictions as a tool for the military to solidify their grab for power.
Shocking measures continue to be implemented
As mentioned above, Aung San Suu Kyi is currently being held and accused of crimes, including breaking COVID-19 restrictions while campaigning. Hence, to the international community, the military appears to be using tight COVID restrictions to justify the coup.
The military government appears to be ordering people off the streets, with the pandemic being placed front and centre in state media in order to deter people from protesting and to control them.
Internationally, these shocking measures have been seen as a step backwards for global democracy, as well as the wielding of the current pandemic as a dangerous political tool.
And locally, these measures have given protesters even more of a reason to fight back against the militant governing body.
The protests persist
Anti-coup protests continue despite the threat of the military and extremely aggressive force being used against demonstrators.
This week, protestors defied warnings and took to the streets on Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day. Over 90 people all over Myanmar were killed, including unarmed civilians and children, making it the bloodiest day in the history of the coup.
So far, the death toll has almost 400, and people show no signs of halting the protests.