In November of 2020, the Myanmar elections took a drastic turn when the military, which is traditionally a key power holder in Myanmar, organized a coup and took over the ruling government, effectively reversing the state of democracy the country was in. The country has had a long and bloody history - from a repressive military regime that led to the shutdown of the country internationally in 1962 to the continuous unfair prosecution of the ethnic minority of Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar is a country that has faced one hardship after another. While the “democratic” government and military have been in constant tension since the late 1980s, its people have suffered poverty, drought, food supply shortages, and slow economic growth for decades now and have been lured into multiple promises made by both the junta (military) and the NLD, the ruling democratic party in the country.
Currently, the situation in Myanmar has been drawing the attention of multiple international media outlets and citizens due to the coup that resulted in the military taking complete control of a previously democratic country, with millions protesting the abduction of the NLD leader and Nobel peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi. However, there are multiple false facades and lies being told to the public for decades now, resulting in a heavily lopsided and tricky situation where if either Aung San Suu Kyi or the military win the fight, there is suffering in store for the citizens of Myanmar. Why is this, and what are the main conflicts in this fight?
Conflict 1: The military government being an alternative to an equally oppressive and authoritarian government, the so-called democratic NDL. For years now, Aung San Suu Kyi has been hailed as the savior of Myanmar’s very messy political situation. The UK and USA have both been encouraging her to step into Myanmar politics in major roles and in international stations and platforms to represent the small Asian country. However, the irony is not lost on many senior politicians of NLD who have interacted with her - the effective prime minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been said to have a controlling and authoritarian-like grip on the NLD party. Since 1988 she has been campaigning for the military to be removed from power for a democratic system to be put into place, while she herself has run her party similar to the military regime. When the party won in the first-ever general elections in Myanmar in 2015, many expected great things that were not delivered in the years of power of the government, including the most basic of policy adaptations and measures to expand the economy.
Conflict 2: The people of Myanmar protest for who they believe is the right and just leader of their country, someone who has for years defended the brutal genocide of the Rohingya Muslims. When Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi was brought in to face charges against the Myanmar junta in front of the international community, she heavily defended the so-called ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the community. Rohingya Muslims were not, and are still not, considered citizens of Myanmar by the military, and are not given even the most basic of necessities and government help. The military has, without restriction, been burning villages, raping Rohingya Muslim women, and inflicting torture on the communities usually occupying the outskirts of the larger cities. This oppression has gotten to the point where families have had to flee in the thousands to getaway. This process, it seems, was completely defendable and just for the political leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Conflict 3: The champion of democracy, a dictator. Even if the military coup is somehow reversed, and the current tightly controlled government removed, the people of the country would not be any less repressed. Firstly, the constitution calls for extensive power of the military - for example, they hold 25% of the seats in parliament - and secondly, the government that had rightfully won the election, the NLD, is itself run by someone who has demanded its complete control and has not effectively utilized the position’s power to finally do some good for Myanmar. Every little decision, as said by many sources, goes through Aung San Suu Kyi to the point that the NLD could not effectively function at all in the 1990s during her house arrest years. This method of leadership, in addition to the leader’s habit of separating herself completely from the rest of her fellow high-ranking officials and others in her party, may result in an equally oppressive regime disguised as a fair democracy.
The situation right now is only worsening: not only is the military amping up their mass killing of the Rohingya Muslims, but it is also now targeting various other minority ethnic groups through airstrikes, on-ground raids, destruction of village dwellings, etc. The only thing that can solve the situation is if the junta’s constitutional and political power is reduced, and an effective democratic government that has the best interests of the people of Myanmar in mind takes over the running of the suffering country.