Fading Democracy

The coup in Myanmar could even prove to be a focal point in bringing back Suu Kyi’s lost adulation.

By Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi | March 2021


New-found stability in Myanmar was shorter than expected: not even a decade of democratic rule had passed when the military could not keep its paws off. While the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi was nothing new in Myanmar, the coup symbolised the rooted military influence in the country even after the 2011 elections which advanced an elected government into power after almost half-a-century of military rule. However, the protests depicted a glimmer of resilience in the face of the so-called tyranny that ruled Myanmar for most of its history.

Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a Southeast Asian country lying east of the Bay of Bengal. The country is ensconced between Bangladesh, Vietnam and Thailand while India and China lie to its north. Ever since the independence of Burma in 1948, it has waded through a harsh history of dictatorships and draconian practices. Aung San Suu Kyi was initially a glimmer of hope; she was one of the very few activists to openly protest against Tatmadaw - the official name for the Burmese military forces.

Ever since liberation from British colonial rule in 1948, the military in Burma dominated the country. They acquired outright control in 1962 that lasted till 2010; this was a rule completely devoid of civilian representation. The military seeped into every sector of the country, dominating key areas like timber and telecommunication. Suu Kyi proved to be a deterrence to the otherwise unhindered military rule. She pushed the uprising in 1988 which eventually forced the military regime to call elections. Suu Kyi’s party, National League of Democracy (NLD), won a sweeping victory in the 1990 elections. The military rejected the outcome, imprisoning parliamentarians and others, including Aung Suu Kyi.

While Tatmadaw regained control on central Myanmar, Suu Kyi became an activist, championing people tormented by military rule. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. hailing her efforts to dismantle military power in the country. She was under house arrest for 15 years. After a decade of mass displacement of the Rohingya community in the name of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’, Tatmadaw finally handed power to a civilian government almost after 50 years and announced the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.

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