The Situation in Myanmar: A Democratic Upheaval
Posted 02/26/2021 02:30PM

The Situation in Myanmar: A Democratic Upheaval

The situation in Myanmar is what America could have been like because of instances in the past. If the Civil War, the January 6th Capitol Invasion, and countless other arguable attempted democratic topplings went another way and were far more severe, it is possible that we would presently be in a situation like the one that Myanmar is in today.

The crisis in Myanmar shows what America could be like in the future. If we don't keep protecting democracy (the governmental philosophy with the most individual liberty and therefore, in my opinion, the greatest type of rule to live under) from those who wish to tear it down, we will no longer be free and will no longer be able to reap the numerous benefits of a democratic society and government.

The situation in Myanmar, or previously known as Burma, - a country in SouthEast Asia bordering Bangladesh, Thailand, and China, to name a few neighboring nations - is similar to looking into a mirror of an alternative reality of what life and politics in America could be like right now - if attempted undoings of American democracy succeed - and may be like - if we don't keep cherishing and protecting the greatness of democracy. This is why this current event is so important to evaluate - despite the fact that almost no mainstream news source is reporting on it.

Following the Burman general elections on November 8th, 2020, in which pro-democrats won in landslide victories in the parliament and the presidency (including female President Aung San Suu Kyi, who got re-elected as Myanmar's leader), the opposition (the USDP, which was backed by the military) baselessly stated that there had been widespread voter fraud - I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a bit of deja vu. So on the morning of February 1st, 2021, just a few days ago, after no change was brought about in the election results, the opposition and the military resorted to violence and force to get their way and to assume power. The military, led by Min Aung Hlaing, arrested President Suu Kyi and many other top government officials. They shut down roads in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and other major cities such as Yangon; the military shut down broadcast channels and took away internet and phone services, and much more. Burman society and government quickly began to change to what it had been like from 1962-2011, when it was also under military control. Within hours of the start of the coup, the military had gained enough leverage for the world to recognize that they had taken control of the country and government.

However, the military in power has not been resting comfortably enough to complete their agenda - which the world does not know, one of the many dangers of this situation. For over the last twenty days, pro-democratic protests have been widespread across the ASEAN nation. Despite the risks associated with the protests against the military, a group which has shown that they will do everything and anything to get what they want, hundreds of thousands have flooded the streets of Myanmar in heroic and inspiring fashion. Many have been arrested, injured, and killed in the name of democracy.

But contrary to the universal stark domestic response to the coup, the international community has been generally split on who to and who not to support. Most Western and first world countries such as the United States, Australia, and most of Europe, have condemned the coup. President Biden has called the regime change and the violence towards protesters "unacceptable." To back up his words, Biden has also imposed sanctions against the country and has signed orders to keep over $1 billion dollars of American held Myanmar assets from the military. However, countries like China and Russia (what a surprise) have been quiet about the issue. But not only have they been silent, they have actively supported it. China, for instance, is suspected to be sending troops and supplies on secret flights to help the Myanmar military in their fight against pro-democratic protesters.

Because of the fact that US enemies like Russia and notably China are backing the insurrection, there is (from my perspective as a GOA International Relations student) little more that the US can do to help Myanmar other than economic consequences enforced on the military government and verbal condemnation of the coup - what the US has already done. Doing otherwise and being a more visceral enemy of it (an invasion, a blockade, etc) would pose a serious threat to American interests. Although many of you may be idealistic and jump to the conclusion that the US should denounce the Myanmar military further, there is more danger that could come out of this than good. The only US positives of further condemning the unrest are a threatening message to people who want to do democracy harm, a possible democratic government and societal revival in Myanmar (if the military is overthrown with America's help), and further intervention will put a stop to whatever possible evil goals the military has in store. The dangers? A further threat of China-US war, poorer relations with Russia, exhaustion of US resources for little return, the list goes on. If you ask me, the latter's weight outweighs the former's and therefore warrants no further and more severe US critization of and involvement in the coup.

But nonetheless, by exclusively looking at and examining this situation, the US can benefit. Forget intervening further or not. The United States, with this Myanmar experience, can look into where Burman democracy went wrong; why their democracy has failed and ours has not since America's independence; and what America can do to prevent a democratic upheaval, like in Myanmar and countless other countries throughout history. These are the types of questions that we as citizens and our leaders should ask and look into if we want our democracy to live. As George Sntayana put it, "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Sources and further information if you'd like to dive deeper into this fascinating topic:

About WiNK

WiNK (“Wooster Ink”) is Wooster School’s online student news publication. WiNK serves as the student voice of our community, and provides readers with a weekly overview of what's happening in our students' lives. While most of the content is developed in our Upper School Publications elective, we rely on other students and faculty to be contributors.

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