Since the coup in February, violence committed by Tatmadaw, the armed forces of Myanmar, against the Burmese people has only escalated. The Young Diplomats Society has tracked the promising results of the November elections, despite their flawed rollout, and explored the underlying tension between civilian and military leadership in Myanmar. The coup is another tragedy in a country with a long history of violent ethnic conflict and a myriad of social issues that many developing countries experience. In the broader context of the international system, the geopolitical contest taking place in the Indo-Pacific has encouraged a range of responses from many actors.
The military junta was swift to suppress civil disobedience by imposing curfews and internet blackouts across the country. Despite this, civilians were quick to organise peaceful demonstrations in the streets. Civil servants, teachers, and doctors have joined in solidarity by stopping work and, in doing so, impairing the ability of the junta to govern the country. The international diaspora brought protests to their embassies, and Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to the UN elected before the coup, Kyaw Moe Tun, expressed his heartfelt support for the protests. He called for the return of democracy to his country and implored other countries to cut ties with the military junta until normalcy was restored.
As the preliminary efforts of the Tatmadaw failed to curb public outcry against their seizure of power, soldiers were sent into the streets to break up protestors and quell opposition. According to Human Rights Watch, over 700 people, including children, have been killed so far, and hundreds have been forcibly disappeared. Video footage has revealed soldiers beating medical staff, firing shotguns into crowds, and using grenades against barricades built by protestors. Complementing its physical suppression of the people, the junta has also recently charged the captive Aung San Suu Kyi with violations of the Secrets Act and has recalled over 100 staff from foreign postings. Among those recalled was Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UK, Kyaw Zwar Minn, who supported the protestors by calling for the release of Aung San Su Kyi and President U Win Myint, and has since been locked out of the London embassy compound.