Myanmar in profile
- Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in Southeast Asia. It neighbours Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China and India.
- It has a population of about 54 million, most of whom are Burmese speakers, although other languages are also spoken, such as Shan, Karen languages, Kachin, Mon, and English taught as a secondary language. The biggest city is Yangon (Rangoon), but the capital is Nay Pyi Taw.
- The main ethnic groups living in the seven ethnic minority states of Burma are the Karen, Shan, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Rakhine and Karenni. Other main groups include the Nagas, who live in north Burma and are estimated to number more than 100,000, constituting another complex family of Tibetan-Burmese language subgroups.
Who is Aung San Su Kyi?
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero, General Aung San. He was gunned down when she was only 2 years old, just before Myanmar gained independence from the British in 1948. In 1964, she went to Oxford University to pursue her studies in philosophy, politics and economics. There she met her future husband, Michael Aris. In 1988, she returned to Yangon – to look after her critically ill mother- where Myanmar was simultaneously in a state of extensive political distress. Thousands including students, office workers, and monks took to the streets demanding a democratic reform. Ms. Aung San Su Kyi was particularly concerned about the tumultuous state in Myanmar back then, and her undying love for the country has potentially led her to rescue the “sinking” nation. She had said: “I could not as my father’s daughter remain indifferent to all that was going on,” she said in a speech in Yangon on 26 August 1988. She went on to lead the revolt against the then-dictator, General Ne Win.
Influenced by the non-violent campaigns of US civil rights leader Martin Luther King and India’s Mahatma Gandhi, she organised rallies and traveled around the country, calling for peaceful democratic reform and free elections. This movement was brutally suppressed by the army, which seized power in a coup on 18 September 1988. Subsequently, Ms. Aung San Sun Kyi was placed under house arrest in 1989. She was detained for 15 years between 1989 and 2010. In 2015, she led the National League Democracy to victory in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years.
What had happened to Myanmar?
On 1st February 2021, before the break of dawn, Myanmar’s military troops invaded the humble homes of elected lawmakers, arresting them in the dark. This had led to a sudden state of confusion among many. Subsequently, Myanmar’s military seized power of the nation in a coup on the same day, ousting Aung San Suu Kyi’s position as a leader at the same time after detaining the country’s de facto leader and numerous other top government figures, such as president Win Myint and over 400 NLD party members. In a television address, the army announced that commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing will take over control of the nation, declaring a national state of emergency for one year.
He had reimposed military rule and martial law, ending a nearly 10 year period of civilian rule from March 2011 to February 2021.
The military’s reason for takeover was in part due to the government’s failure to act on the military’s claim of voter fraud in last November’s election, coupled with the failure to postpone the election due to the coronavirus crisis. The move came after months of friction between the Civilian government and the powerful military known as Tatmadaw. The two have attempted to share power since the 2015 election.
Soldiers cordoned off roads in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw and the main city, Yangon. Both international and domestic TV channels, including state broadcasters were cut off. Internet and phone channels are disrupted by 50%. Local banks were forced to close. A curfew was imposed. However, no major violence has been reported on that day.
The opposition-Tatmadaw has demanded a rerun of the election.
Myanmar’s current state of turmoil
The tension between the junta and the civilians continues to grab the nation tighter since 1st February 2021. Everyday just gets increasingly bloodier than the next. The number of deaths and casualties has climbed to a saddening amount as a result of accidental gunshots and brutal attacks from the military. The military who once vowed to be guardian angels of the democratic nation has now evolved to the unthinkable, constantly battling the devoted citizens. Tons of thousands of brave souls have risked themselves to a massacre by coming out of their homes to chant for democracy and for begging their ousted, beloved leader by the streets to come back, despite the overnight raid by the police – a move rarely seen in Myanmar. Topless bodybuilders, workers of different specialties and dissatisfied pupils paraded the densely packed streets while holding the banners up high, face flushed with a myriad of emotions: sad to anger to grieve to hopelessness, albeit not cowardly, the banners held up over their heads, read “we want democracy” or “we want our leader Aung San Suu Kyi” with a caricature of her on a huge, red plastic-like material banner of the same sort. The list goes on to see countless banners about democracy and freedom and Aung San Suu Kyi. This movement has caused an uproar among the Tatmadaw, resulting them to do anything possible to mute the citizens- firing tear gas and stunning grenades in Lashino town in the country’s northern Shan region. Waking up to sounds of tear gas and gunshots every day has instilled more than fear in the citizens.
Myanmar looks messy in general-ransacked newsrooms, busy streets once used for commuting have been dominated by furious mobs of protesters, and the inflicting terror even in the night lingers endlessly. Despite risking torture and jail, terrified citizens stayed at home and are quick to shelter protesters hiding from the security forces. As the regime has introduced a series of ridiculous new laws, an understanding has been developed that people can be jailed for anything. Abiding by the rules does not mean you could be right, you still could always be found guilty.
Citizens who once felt safe in the arms of a previously progressive democratic nation have been pleading for help from the internet, capturing barbaric moments of violent attacks, simultaneously holding on to the last few destinations for hope that help will be provided swiftly from international sources.
People have relied on news reporters to update what the outside world looks like, but they have become the military’s next target. Dozens of news reporters have been detained and newsrooms have been raided in the next few days. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested; their future is dark.
The night is not any safer than the mornings. At dusk, lights flicking off in densely stacked streets mean the Tatmadaw has arrived. Flashlights crawled across balconies alerted citizens about the soldier’s arrival. People would bang pots and pans to warn their neighbours about the approaching security force, with the thought that police units will be conducting raids to arrest people and to drive away evil spirits. The troops would be clad in mostly army green, wearing red armbands with a white star and a netted helmet over their heads, leaving just their eyes. Thugs would be deliberately released from prisons of Myanmar just to make people feel unsafe. They are anyone’s worst nightmare, even the children. Sleepless nights have become the norm.
Following deaths and perilously deadly attacks, angry mobs armed with iron bars, petrol, and axes set fire to 32 Chinese-backed factories in townships. Hence, the pitch black, voluminous smoke billowing from the ignited factories and the red flames. This had caused US$37million in damage and two wounded Chinese employees. Angry mops could be charged to hired thugs.
Everyday occurrences like these are hell to many as citizens of Myanmar live in worry indefinitely.
By far, 573 people have been killed, surpassing a grim toll of 500. Nearly 90% of people killed by Myanmar junta forces since the coup have been shot dead and more than a quarter shot dead in the head – raising suspicions of intentional targeting.
What will happen to Aung San Suu Kyi?
Aung San Suu Kyi is now faced with 4 minor charges-the charges include breaching import and export laws, and possession of unlawful communication devices such as illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios, flouting coronavirus restrictions and corruption charges. These could mean Aung San Suu Kyi could face harsher penalty charges.
On 15 March 2021, after the court hearing, the junta has piled up more charges against Aung San Su Kyi such as violating anti-corruption law, which will result in her facing a maximum of 15 years of prison.
Currently, “the lady” is still under house arrest.
The crackdown on Rohingya crisis
The Rohingya, who are they?
The Rohingya, the Muslim community and one of many Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, have been described as “ amongst the world’s least wanted and most discriminated minority”. This unique bunch has been stripped off with basic needs such as what we most often take for granted every day- formal education, proper shelter, a balanced diet, a secure job, and citizenship. They lack Burmese citizenship in a predominantly Buddhist country since 1982 when Burmese national law was enacted and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse ever since. They represent about 1 million people among Myanmar’s total population of 52 million and live in the northern part of Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh and India.
In the last few years, thousands of Rohingya risked themselves to flee from home to other countries such as Bangladesh (the world’s largest refugee camp), India, Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia in a bid to escape communal violence or alleged abuses by the security forces.
Why did they flee their homes?
On 25 August 2017, there was a mass exodus in Myanmar after Rohingya Arsa militants launched deadly attacks on more than 30 police posts. The Buddhist mobs responded by igniting their village and killing their civilians
At least 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under the age of five, were killed in the month after the violence broke out, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
Written by : Ashlynn
Edited by : Maki