Image Courtesy of Unsplash.
Julia Neves, Queens University.
This past year has been marked by not only the coronavirus, but also widespread protests promoting social equality. Examples include Black Lives Matter in the United States, Anti-Government protests in Thailand, and post-election results in Belarus. Now another movement has been incited in Myanmar, in response to the elected leader being held in an unknown location due to the military coup. There have been protests organized by civilians demanding the military junta step down and cede power to a federal democracy. Despite the peaceful demonstrations, the opposition has been using violence and censorship in an effort to silence the public. This has led to civilian casualties and detainees, in a situation which has now caught the attention of world leaders around the globe.
In November 2020 Myanmar held a general election in which Aung San Suu Kyi, part of the National League of Democracy was elected. However, the opposing party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) which is backed by the military claimed that there was fraud involved with the election results. UDSP believed that there were 10.5 million instances of election fraud, however, no evidence has been provided that proves their claim. On February 1st, the military staged a coup and now is holding Ms. Suu Kyi in an unknown location. A secret trial was held for Ms. Suu Kyi as she is accused of violating import and COVID-19 restrictions. The coup has caused civil unrest as Suu Kyi had been fairly elected in a major step towards democracy. This had been the second democratic election since 2011 and again a military coup has halted the progression towards a federal democracy. The people of Myanmar want the power to peacefully elect a leader, rather than having one forcefully imposed upon them. In response to the situation, people began protesting on the streets by marching, banging pots, refusing to go to work and praying together. Although the efforts were peaceful with the goal of getting the military to step down, the response was to control the masses through violence and censorship.
The military’s method of control was suspending most television broadcasts, cancelling flights, and suspending telephone and internet access. They also barricaded streets with soldiers in riot gear, and stationed snipers on buildings. The first act of violence occurred on February 9th when a 20-year-old woman was shot in the head while protesting and passed away on life support. The second recorded instance was on February 20th when two people, including one 16-year-old were killed, and many more were injured. Since then it has been reported that at least 149 people have been killed in these protests and many more are missing. Videos and images have been circulating online from citizens of Myanmar pleading for help as people scream and gun shots are fired in the background. People around the world are trying to spread the word on social media as the military government is trying to silence their cry for help. The United States and the United Kingdom have imposed sanctions on the military leaders and the European Union is said to follow soon. The UN Security Council has condemned the violence against peacefulprotests and call on the military to practice restraint. However, outside organizations have called on the council to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar in order to lessen the violence exercised by the military. Therefore, international intervention has begun in an effort to help the protesters, but there needs to be compliance from the military in order to protect democracy.
Myanmar’s political climate is worsening as the days pass and outside intervention is urgently needed to protect the population. Citizens are wearing construction hats in order to protect themselves from a government who is supposed to protect them. This is a call to action not only for help for the civilians, but also for a democracy that the population of Myanmar is willing to fight and die for. If other countries and international groups like the UN involve themselves by imposing sanctions, the military will have no choice but to back down. Despite the accusations and trial against Aung San Suu Kyi, the first step is to protect civilian rights — and then focus on electing someone that reflects their ideology.
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