Myanmar’s audacious military coup: Two Years On

We express our severe concern with the enormous number of people who have been jailed without warrants as well as the sentencing of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

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Myanmar Military Training [ Photo Credit: The Irrawaddy ]

Today is 1st February 2023. The daring military takeover in Myanmar two years ago on February 1 will be remembered as the start of the most oppressive administration in recent memory on February 1, 2023. The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated drastically since February 2021, and a civil war between the military and the pro-democracy front is still raging. The years 2021 and 2022 were sad for the state of human rights as the military, often known as the Tatmadaw, used excessive violence to put an end to the call for democracy.

A resolution was vetoed in the UN Security Council because to Chinese and Russian support for the Tatmadaw, therefore it might be said that the situation has reached this point as a result of the lackluster response and insufficient strict steps of the international community.

Unprecedented agony and hardship for the people of Myanmar resulted from the military’s unrelenting violence and repression in 2022.

Aung San Suu Kyi was one of the prominent leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who was detained by the Tatmadaw two years ago after they attempted a coup and made the absurd claim that elections had been rigged. Despite the fact that the NLD won the election with an overwhelming majority of seats and 83 percent of the vote overall, Tatmadaw, the “King Maker,” rejected the outcome out of concern for its continued control over Myanmar politics. The general populace of Myanmar protested against the coup and denounced it. The demonstration quickly evolved into the civil disobedience movement (CDM), in which professionals from all fields refused to report to work and sought the return of democracy.

The Tatmadaw’s choice to satiate the demand with bullets covered Myanmar’s streets in blood. According to the Thailand-based human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the Tatmadaw has killed roughly 1,500 people and detained up to 9,000 others in the past year (Burma). Additionally, the Tatmadaw employed stringent monitoring techniques to stifle protestors’ voices. 120 journalists have been detained under the recently implemented harsh provision, Section 505A of the penal code, of whom 15 have been found guilty and 50 are still awaiting trial. Seven media outlets’ licenses as well as those for satellite television have been revoked.

After the People’s Defence Force (PDF) was established as the political branch of the National Unity Government in the midst of the bloody crackdown, the CDM changed into an armed resistance group (NUG). Even though NUG has the least power over the force, former NLD officials and pro-democracy fronts founded NUG and PDF as their armed wings. PDF and NUG gradually became one of the main political groups in Myanmar. To combat PDF, Tatmadaw has increased its level of aggression, whereas PDF prefers guerrilla warfare. According to UN estimates, at least 406,000 people have been displaced due to the increasing civil war.

Myanmar’s economy has also been destroyed by political unrest. Foreign companies’ withdrawal and currency depreciation have stifled the nation’s economic expansion.

Even while previous military coups encountered the least resistance and protest, this one resulted in a hitherto unheard-of movement against the dictatorship. The youth of the nation have demonstrated a strong belief in democracy and have remained in the forefront of the protest. The “Five Twos,” often referred to as Myanmar’s “Generation Z,” have taken the Tatmadaw and the rest of the world by surprise. Their political awareness is commendable, and they exhibit an unwavering spirit of resistance.

The Tatmadaw started to experience an image crisis after the youth rebellion was violently put down, and they now worry about maintaining power in the face of unabated popular hatred. Outside of Myanmar, the Tatmadaw has substantial backing from mighty nations like China and Russia.

On the other hand, the people of Myanmar rely on the international world to change things and bring back democracy. With the military’s withdrawal from power, it is clear that the situation will change for the better, necessitating the major engagement of the international community. Ironically, there has been no progress toward resolving this political problem by the international community, which is still bitterly split.

The lives of Myanmar’s residents and ethnic communities are wretched and perpetually unstable due to the lackluster responses of the international community, the geopolitical alignment of major countries, the lengthy history of military rule, and the Tatmadaw’s counter-insurgency operations. Torture, famine, and displacement are the three main pillars of modern-day Myanmar society.

The Tatmadaw has not been significantly impacted by major corporations leaving the country in protest of violations of human rights, such as Chevron and Total. The causes of humanity, genocide, and ethnic cleansing are not what drive the global world; rather, it is geopolitical interests. Although many people believed NUG would have international assistance to drive the Tatmadaw out, in reality, it has not succeeded in securing the backing of significant international players beyond mere lip service.

Situations like these, ranging from the Rohingya catastrophe to the Middle East conflict, have demonstrated how keenly global powers have focused on securing their own interests through strategic realignments and readjustments. Bangladesh is affected by the military takeover in Myanmar and the subsequent political developments in that country since the repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingyas from Bangladesh has been put on hold.

The Tatmadaw’s violence, repression, and civil war in Myanmar have left people living in perpetual fear and uncertainty. The international community must restore democracy to Myanmar’s youth and give displaced people like the Rohingyas new hope. Before it’s too late, the international community must respond in a concerted and strict manner. The Tatmadaw would gain strength as a result of the great nations failing to act, prolonging the agony and vulnerability of the people of Myanmar in 2023 and beyond.

We honor the lives lost over the previous year, especially those of women, children, humanitarian workers, human rights advocates, and nonviolent protestors, on this second anniversary of the coup. We vehemently condemn the country’s widespread human rights abuses and breaches committed by the military dictatorship, especially those committed against Rohingya and other racial and religious minorities. We express our deep concern about the verifiable reports of sexual and gender-based violence as well as torture. We are really concerned about the additional more than 400,000 people who have fled their homes since the coup. We further express our serious concern for the worsening humanitarian situation throughout the nation and call on the military regime to grant immediate, complete, and unrestricted access to vulnerable communities for humanitarian purposes, including COVID-19 immunization.

We express our severe concern with the enormous number of people who have been jailed without warrants as well as the sentencing of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

All members of the international community are urged to support initiatives aimed at promoting justice for the people of Myanmar, to hold those accountable for abuses and violations of human rights accountable, to stop providing the military and its representatives with arms, equipment, and technical assistance, and to continue assisting them in meeting immediate humanitarian needs.

We want to be clear that we support the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus and the Special Envoy of ASEAN in his efforts to promote a peaceful resolution that serves the needs of the people of Myanmar. In order to ensure that the ASEAN Special Envoy has access to all stakeholders in Myanmar, including pro-democracy organizations, we urge the military administration to actively participate in ASEAN’s efforts to achieve complete and urgent implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. We also applaud the work of the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar and call on the military government to cooperate constructively with her.

Arpita Hazarika

Dr Arpita Hazarika is a Gauhati University, Assam, India-based researcher. She is interested in refugee affairs, political economy, security and strategic affairs, and foreign policies of the Asia-Pacific region. With numerous foreign exposures, she has conducted research works on India-Bangladesh affairs.

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