Myanmar military rule: Unprecedented resistance, but in danger of being normalized

The military junta’s February 2021 overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, was followed by intense repression (see “what is happening on the ground” here). But resistance has been unprecedented, widely supported, spearheaded by brave youth (with women and girls central to the movement), and one that Myanmar journalist Zwe Mahn says could remake future society for the better. Indeed, writes Thant Myint-U, author of The Hidden History of Burma, “Over recent months, a new generation of leaders have come to the fore and many have rejected the ethno-nationalism at the heart of Myanmar politics, seeking fresh alliances across racial, ethnic and religious divides.” Yet the economic and health care system has collapsed and 3.4 million people may face hunger in coming months. While Mahn writes that the “battle is lopsided,” yet “with action from international community is winnable,” in “No One Is Saving Myanmar,” Atlantic writer Timothy McLaughlin writes that foreign governments and “organizations such as the UN have been left looking ineffectual and paralyzed by inaction.” Two authors from the Center for Strategic and International Studies write that “[The military] has set the country down a violent path toward either revolution, repression, or collapse. The people of Myanmar have overwhelmingly chosen resistance.” Alarmingly, Myanmar is already fading from global headlines, and former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee warns that “there is a dangerous sense that the coup is becoming normalized, even accepted, as the new status quo.” We have seen this happen between the two Koreas over 70 years of division, over ten years of civil war in Syria, and recently between China mainland and Hong Kong: division or absorption by violence is viewed first as unacceptable, then tragic, then inevitable, then normal. Where are the international leaders with sufficient courage and influence to declare otherwise, and act accordingly? 

(Recommended reading from our May 2021 Global Briefing)