By Avery Ross, G11
As of March 29th, over 100 victims have been brutally murdered at the hands of the military junta of Myanmar. As you sit in the comfort of your own home without the worry that your family may not return home in one piece, the people of Myanmar are still fighting for their freedom. They do not have the privilege of free speech or the freedom of movement that you and I have. They can’t even sit in their own homes in peace without risking being shot through their windows. Nor can they go to the supermarket to buy food or water safely.
It’s the simple things that we take for granted that they no longer have.
On November 8th 2020, Myanmar had a general election where the NLD (National League for Democracy) party won 396 seats out of 476 seats in the parliament. The military party (the Union Solidarity and Development party) lost this election by a landslide. Which in turn triggered them to initiate a coup after 5 years of relative stability.
On February 1st, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested after the Military claimed that the election was “rigged” and the results were fraudulent. Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the founding members of the NLD party and one of the most prominent fighters for democracy in Myanmar. As she is the leader of the party that won this so called fraudulent election, it seemed to the military that it was only logical to immediately arrest her once again.
Aung San Suu Kyi had been Myanmar’s leader for the past five years. Before she was Myanmar’s leader she was at the forefront of the fight against the military dictatorship in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi sacrificed her freedom in doing this as she ended up in house arrest for 15 years over a 21 year long period.
As a result of her perseverance she became an international symbol of peaceful resistance. Aung San Suu Kyi’s family has a long legacy of revolutionaries as her father Aung San was a politician and an incredibly significant figure in Myanmar’s struggle for independence from the British. But he was assassinated when Aung San Suu Kyi was a child, though today he is still widely remembered as the father of the nation.
Aung San Suu Kyi became involved in Myanmar’s political uprising in 1988 when many Burmese people were protesting for a democratic reform. This was called the 8888 uprising. The 8888 uprising was a revolt against the then Military dictator General Ne Win.
General Ne Win was the founder of the Burma Socialist Programme Party which overthrew the democratic union parliament of U Nu in the 1962 Coup d’etat. This made Burma a one party socialist state. 350 people died during this revolt and Aung San Suu Kyi was detained. She was placed in and out of house arrest multiple times throughout this 21 year period. She ended up winning a nobel peace prize in 1991 for her non-violent protests for democracy and human rights. In 2010, she was freed from house arrest and she rejoined the political process as a government reform had recently occured.
In April 2012, her party won 43 of 45 seats and Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as an MP as well as a leader against the opposing party. In 2015 Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won yet another election. This time it was Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years. She remained partially in power from 2015 until 2021. She may have won the election in 2015 but she couldn’t become president because the constitution doesn’t allow people with foriegn national children to be presidents in Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi has two foriegn national children. Regardless, Aung San Suu Kyi was still perceived as Myanmar’s leader during this short period of time.
During 2015 the forceful displacement of the Rohingya people also began. They were displaced in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. Though in 2017, this crisis truly erupted. The military purposely aggravated the Rohingya people so that Rohingya militants would attack police stations thus giving the military police an excuse mercilessly commit genocide. This caused 700,000 Rohingya people to flee Myanmar in search of safety. The Rohingya are technically dubbed as stateless people even though they are an ethnic group native to the Rakhine and Arakan state of Myanmar. The Rohingya people have existed in Myanmar for thousands of years, yet Myanmar does not recognize their existence.
Aung San Suu Kyi came under fire during the height of this crisis as she was accused of simply “not doing enough” by people from the western world. They simply do not understand that she never had full control of the government’s actions. Aung San Suu Kyi never had real power. Many people believed that she didn’t speak out against these atrocities because she was Islamophic but that is also not true – a man who she worked incredibly close with in the midst of drafting a new constitution, also happened to be a Burmese Muslim was assasinated by the military. He was writing a constitution that would’ve partially stripped the military of its power, his name was U Ko Ni.
Just like the Rohingya crisis, the 8888 uprising, and the Saffron Revolution this Coup now known as the Spring Revolution was premeditated. The Military in Myanmar will not let go of their power and make room for democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi was not the only person detained at the beginning of this Coup, many cabinet members, senior figures of many parties, public figures supporting democracy, and even monks were detained alongside her. There were no warrants during their arrests and a temporary president was assigned. Ministers and deputies were removed the next day and replaced with ministers and deputies of the Military’s choice. This was all premeditated. The military plans for this, everytime the people of Myanmar get too close to a democractic reform their freedom is stripped away from them entirely.
Right now people are dying, children are dying, the elderly are dying and monks are dying. No – the word dying doesn’t do justice.
Hundreds of people are being murdered and wrongly imprisoned. Mothers are having their kids’ bodies brought home to them stripped of their organs. One mom didn’t even receive her son’s body, just his brain in a plastic bag. People aren’t just being shot, they’re being mercilessly slaughtered. The Military Junta seems to kill for sport and anyone that stands with the Civil Disobedience Movement of Myanmar risks everything. No one should have to risk their life for democracy and freedom, those should be human rights – not a first world privilege.
The Civil Disobedience Movement of Myanmar has now been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Nobody involved in the movement wants a prize, they want their children’s lives back.
How many more people have to die before the UN steps in or people start to pay attention to Myanmar and the atrocities being committed by the Military Junta? How many more people have to die before Myanmar finally has a deomcratic reform and its people get their freedom back?
It’s not that hard to post an infographic on what’s going in Myanmar on your Instagram or to read up and what’s in Myanmar. We have the privilege of freedom of speech and our internet is not being cut off for hours at a time by our governments. We can leave our houses without having to worry about our own government killing us in the streets and leaving us there to rot. We have a privilege that people of Myanmar currently do not have. We need to join the fight and help them as the people of Myanmar do not deserve this cruelty.
So I’m asking you how this: hard is it to stand up and fight for what’s right?
Cover illustration courtesy of Thomas Dimayuga & Kit Beresford, G11 + G9