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A day of agony for the people of Myanmar


February 3, 2021

Myanmar is in a terrible mess – from the recent Rohingya crisis and the decades-long ethnic armed conflicts to a broken economy and an unstable semi-democratic political system. These are all complex and multi-dimensional issues, but the brutal military junta of Myanmar is the main culprit. To make it even worse, another horrible chaos is made by the same military junta – an abrupt move to seize power by declaring a national one-year state emergency and detaining democratically elected key government officials including the President and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, along with other prominent writers and activists on the early morning of February 1st of 2021. It is indeed a direct assault on the democratic progress of Myanmar and an absolute disregard of the hopes of the people of Myanmar. While our fellow citizens of Myanmar are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the military is making our lives even more miserable – disabling the local phone lines and internet services, cutting all the local broadcasting stations off except for the military-run television, and barricading roads with police trucks in major cities. All of a sudden, everyone is disconnected. Therefore, this day will go down to history as one of the darkest days for the people of Myanmar.

Once all the communication channels were restored at noon, I received tons of love and letters of concern about me and my family from inside and outside of the country. To name a few: the McCain Institute from the US, my 2019 cohort from seven different nations, UnionAid from New Zealand, AIESEC buddy from Italy, and ISASS Forum colleagues from ASEAN countries. I am forever grateful to everyone who is showing their utmost humanity and empathy towards me.In these turbulent times, it is a relief to see that the long-standing supporters of Myanmar’s democratic struggle from around the world including President Joe Biden of the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, and many foreign diplomats are condemning the act of the military generals and urging them to release all the detainees immediately. Similarly, Myanmar citizens who are abroad have also poured onto the streets to show solidarity, unity, and togetherness for their beloved country, and to condemn the terrible act of Myanmar’s military coup. The ordinary citizens of Myanmar are giving love, support, encouragement, and warm regards to each other virtually – like never before – as it is impossible to do so in person due to COVID-19 and fear of arrest by the police force.

When the current elected government won a landslide victory in last November’s general election, it was a big blow to the military. Despite the fact that 25 percent of the parliamentary seats are reserved for the military generals and three key ministries for the Commander-in-Chief, the military backed party, the United Solidarity Development Party, claimed that the election was fraudulent even though there was no credible evidence. In spite of this, the military-run television announced that the detention was carried out in respond to the “election fraud” and the power was transferred to the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing on that very day, February 1st 2021. Later in the evening of the same day, another announcement was made that the 24 ministries and deputies had been removed and 11 replacements in the new administration were named. They also declared that the martial law would become effective between 8 PM and 4 AM. This was shocking news and an absolute scandal for the people and their beloved nation. Our hearts dropped to the floor upon hearing the announcement, this solely proves that Myanmar’s military junta has yet again, taken over the governance of our beloved nation. It was also an act which completely undermined the progress that the quasi-civilian government has made over recent years and a literal textbook example of a classic military coup!

Now, the people of Myanmar demand the military:

  1. To immediate release all the detainees including the President and the State Counsellor
  2. To transfer power to the democratically elected government
  3. To acknowledge and accept the results of the fair and free election
  4. To respect the sacred votes and the will of the people
  5. To allow the Third Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Assembly of the Union)

The years of 2015- 2020 were a power-sharing phase between the Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and General Min Aung Hlaing. During that time, the de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was widely criticized for her silence on the human rights violations towards the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities by the military, in fact defending the same military that put her under house arrest for a total of 15 years. Certainly, she has been a controversial leader and the people of Myanmar have learned the hard truth that a Nobel Peace Prize winner alone cannot transform the nation overnight. Therefore, undivided attention should be paid to the attack on the principles of democracy rather than her personality in these critical hours. The destiny of the people of Myanmar is democracy and it is worth fighting for because it is a symbol of individual freedom and equality for all.

The sad truth is that Myanmar got neither democracy nor human rights. However, the determination and tenacity of the people of Myanmar to get a genuine democracy and access to basic human rights will never cease because we all know very well that our lives are absolutely worthless under military dictatorship. Although the nation has virtual connections within and internationally, it is unpredictable what could actually happen next. As of now, long queues at the ATMs and markets to stock up on essentials has become another new normal for the people of Myanmar yet again.

We will rise up and stand against the military dictatorship at all costs. I have no doubt in my mind that the McCain Institute will stand with me and the people of Myanmar in these difficult times. In fact, the late Senator John McCain was a longtime supporter and a true friend of Myanmar. I believe that as long as people are joined hand in hand with prayers, respect, love, empathy, and care, nothing is impossible to achieve. While hoping for this catastrophic day to come to an end, I recite and meditate on “The Peace Prayer” of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is an error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

DISCLAIMER: McCain Institute is a nonpartisan organization that is part of Arizona State University. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent an opinion of the McCain Institute.

Publish Date
February 3, 2021