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What Lies Behind Myanmar’s Troubled History Since The Second World War?

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Unfortunately, the history of Myanmar is painted with bloodshed and mass-murder since its inception. There is no denying the fact that in the altercations between elites, only the less fortunate in life are the true sufferers. However, such disaccord on the level of elites has at times created a brief window for the civilians. Despite an almost televised and horrifying humanitarian crisis for the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities, the international community did little to curb the power of the country’s military. Space for freedom of expression, association and assembly has comprehensively shrunk from the early days when Myanmar first underwent a coup in 1962.

In World War 2, the British Empire came under unprecedented strategic strain. This was a golden opportunity for various colonized countries to free themselves from British rule. And so the global conflict came as a kind of blessing in disguise for countries such as India, Pakistan and elsewhere. Myammar, too, as a British colony sought its independence. General Aung San was reckoned its independence hero as his contributions towards getting a free country were limitless. After victory, however, the liberation leader Gen. Aung San was assassinated. Meanwhile, Myanmar came under a military coup for the first time in 1962.

Military rule was harsh: its brutality created an environment of fear due to which common people were hesitant to protest against the coup. Owing to that, pro-democratic voices on the 27th of September 1988 registered a party known as the National League for Democracy (NLD). The Party was led by the daughter of Gen. Aung San, the now famous Aung San Suu Kyi – who was later arrested in 1989. She was detained for nearly 15 years, and the party suppressed for the period.

The Saffron revolution was a huge factor in igniting the public’s anger against the military regime in Myanmar. It was a non-violent uprising against the coup which started in 2007 (August) and continued into 2008 (September). Protesters in this movement included monks, teachers, lawyers, students and bank officers. The motives of the protesters included their opposition to military dictatorship, political repression, removal of fuel subsidies, human rights violations, political corruption and state terrorism. So its demands are listed as democracy, free elections, respect for human rights, minority rights, release of political prisoners and the end of military involvement in politics.

After the Saffron revolution, the rulers observed an anti-coup enthusiasm in the air. Consequently, on the 8th of June 2010 another political party was registered, commonly called the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and in the same year the pro-democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released. Military rule also came to an end in 2011. So, in 2015 there were free elections in Myanmar which were won by NLD.

The transition to democratic rule did not go well.

Meanwhile, in August 2017, a Muslim militant group attacked nearly 30 police posts in Myanmar. So, the Myanmar military initiated a war on the Muslim minority, the ethnic Rohingya Muslims. The army gunned down approximately 6,700 civilians including over 730 children and burned down more than 288 villages. Terrified Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh for refuge. According to an estimate of the United Nations, more than 600,000 refugees are still in camps. In August 2018 a UN investigator accused the military of mass-murdering Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar came under military rule again this year, with a coup on the 1st of February. The Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of possessing illegal walkie-talkies under the Natural Disaster Law and charging Win Myint, the President of the country, in a similar way. The military implemented curfews, blocked the entire city of Yangoon and the capital city Naypyidaw, having suspended internet and phone services – and closed the banks forcefully.

People have protested against the coup in large numbers. Today alone, some 18 people have been killed recklessly by the junta. However, such inhuman acts are also coming under increasing criticism internationally. UN Secretary-General Antony Guterres has called for the release of those detained during the coup. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The brutal human rights violation in Myanmar must end forthwith. Now is a good time to finally address the root cause of violence in Myanmar, be it against minority communities or the country’s majority: i.e. Illegitimate and violent rule by the military.

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Naya Daur