Although the protests have been mentioned in the news, COVID-19 once again dominates the headlines, leaving many not sure about what is actually happening in Myanmar (or Burma), and why. Leah Langley takes a look, and summarises the events thus far.
Myanmar has been experiencing a state of civil unrest for several weeks due to a Coup D’état occurring in the country and protests breaking out in response.
On February 1st, 2021, it was announced on the official TV station of the Army that the military were now in charge of the country and a year-long state of emergency was declared. The takeover was thought to be a response to the country’s November 2020 General Election, and President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and many other members of parliament, ministers, and deputies were all detained. The results of the General Election had declared that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won 83% of the available seats but the opposition party (the Union Solidarity and Development), which is backed by the military, had only secured 33 out of a possible 476 seats. The military refused to accept the results claiming that millions of voting errors had occurred, however there is no evidence to support these claims.
In response to the coup, weeks of somewhat peaceful protests were observed but on February 20th 2021 two unarmed protestors, including a 16-year-old boy, were killed by security forces. The killings led to an expansion in the civil disobedience movement, which has been named the Spring Revolution. The protests are thought to be the largest the country has seen since the Saffron Revolution of 2007, with gruesome reports stacking up. The armed forces have been seen to intensify their attacks as each week has passed with March 27th, 2021, being named the bloodiest day as more than 420 people were killed, and thousands more were assaulted, tortured, or detained. As of the end of March, more than 500 protestors had lost their lives at the hands of the military or police forces, and more than 3,000 people had been detained.
Social media site Facebook announced the suspension of the Military’s main page on February 21st 2021 as it had breached the “standards prohibiting the incitement of violence,” and on February 25th 2021 all Tatmadaw accounts were banned from Facebook and Instagram along with all related media entities too. World leaders and representatives from other important institutions have been quick to condemn the violence – the US Embassy stated that forces were “murdering unarmed civilians,” and the EU delegation to Myanmar said that the events would be remembered for their “terror and dishonour.” Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity to the people of Myanmar whilst calling for national stability, and he was joined by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who also said that those responsible would be held to account. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged Myanmar’s generals to cease the killings and repression of demonstrations.
There has also been a halt in trade with the US as US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that all trading engagements were to be suspended until a democratically elected government returned. Unfortunately, the outcry of criticism and the sanctions being put into place seem to be falling on deaf ears as military generals are still yet to back down and many prominent figures are still being detained in undisclosed locations. With neither side showing any evidence of backing down, it is expected that the results of these protests could be some of the most horrific in the county’s history.
Header designed by Christos Alamaniotis – Head of Design
Article edited by Connor Wade – Politics Editor