Regional Stability in Myanmar on Edge

Myanmar is a Southeast Asian country that — under the control of a repressive military group from 1962 to 2011 — was long considered an outcast. After gaining independence in 1947, the country was left in turmoil, with regular domestic conflict that disabled any prospects of forming a stable nation. The aftermath of colonialism discouraged many leaders from seeking foreign mediation which further isolated the country and led to an obsession with national sovereignty, a notion that was perpetuated by the military (also known as the Tatmadaw). In 1989, the military junta even abandoned the state’s initial name, Burma, and called it Myanmar instead. This decision, along with the country’s continuous refusal of international intervention, was condemned by many other countries. 

Liberalization efforts began in early 2010 when work began on restoration of democracy within the country. In 2015, Myanmar held its first election in nearly 25 years. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent close to 15 years in detention because of her significant role in organizing democratic reform and advocating free elections, led the National League for Democracy (NLD) party to a supermajority win. Nonetheless, in 2017, amid claims of a military genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority group, Suu Kyi refused to confront the military, and even defended the Tatmadaw in an international court. Due to the violence, approximately 420,000 Rohingya fled to other Southeast Asian countries seeking asylum; nearly 120,000 Rohingya are displaced and at least 1000 were killed. 

In November last year, Suu Kyi’s NLD party won again. The Tatmadaw declared the victory an election-fraud and, in February of this year, overthrew the NDL government in what the Biden administration calls a military ‘coup’. Suu Kyi and many supporters of NLD are being detained while the military has appointed Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as leader for a one-year period. Since then, the military has killed approximately 70 people and detained 165 protestors of the new regime. It has also established a curfew and banned gatherings of more than a handful of people in major cities. 

Kyaw More Tun, Myanmar diplomat to the United Nations, has voiced urgent need to protect Myanmar civilians and stop the coup. Many countries, including Canada and the United States, have expressed severe criticism of the coup and have posed sanctions on the country. The U.N. Security Council continues to urge countries to pose more sanctions in order restore stability in Myanmar. 

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