What’s Still Happening in Myanmar?

01 Dec What’s Still Happening in Myanmar?

A high school teacher was murdered, with his decapitated body left on display amidst the ruins of his school. Air strikes are ordered on villages, with an attack on a monastery killing 11 children that were attending school there at the time. Journalists, celebrities and any public figure who dares to speak out against the murderous regime are arrested and jailed. This is the reality that Myanmar’s people are living in now. A military dictatorship has taken over the nation, throwing the country back into the dark ages, with brutal and gruesome scenes painting the background. 

Some of you may remember an article I wrote last year explaining the military coup in Myanmar that occurred on February 1, 2021. Myanmar had just recently been lifted out of its isolation from the world after decades of military rule, with new hopes on the horizon as democracy slowly took place with the re-election of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who is the face of freedom in Myanmar. Then early last year, the Myanmar military, or the Tatmadaw, overthrew rightfully elected leaders and staged a military coup. They detained Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint and several other members of the National League of Democracy (NLD), the democratically elected ruling party. Protests erupted and the civil disobedience movement gained traction, with protestors staging labour strikes and boycotting military services and operations. Over the past two years, the Tatmadaw has brutally suppressed any acts of resistance, even if this resistance is just sharing a post on social media condemning the military rule. Nationwide censorship has commenced, with all newspaper publications and television broadcasting fully controlled by the Tatmadaw. Fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech have been wholly violated in Myanmar, and the military has burnt down entire villages and places of residence and cut off essential supplies. 

In an effort to restore democracy to Myanmar and limit the power of the Tatmadaw, a shadow government has been formed, entitled the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG). The NUG consists of lawmakers that were elected during Myanmar’s 2020 general elections and has representatives from the NLD, independent groups, and ethnic minorities. The NUG launched a defensive war against the illegitimate military government and formed the People’s Defense Force of Myanmar. The People’s Defense Force is the armed wing of the NUG, made up of pro-democracy activists, including defectors of the Tatmadaw joining the resistance. Even the Tatmadaw’s own soldiers are disgusted by the actions of the military junta and are refusing to turn their weapons against the people of Myanmar. The Tatmadaw has broken countless universal humanitarian laws, killing the people that they’re supposed to be serving. 

The UN has reported one million internally displaced people, forced out of their homes due to the conflict between the Tatmadaw and the resistance. Regions with ethnic minority communities are especially affected, which isn’t surprising considering the Tatmadaw’s long history of ethnic cleansing. On October 22, 2022, the Tatmadaw massacred 80 civilians that were attending a concert celebrating the anniversary of the Kachin Independence Organisation, a political organisation representing the Kachin ethnic group. This was the single bloodiest attack so far. At the time of writing this, at least 2,000 civilians have been killed. Almost 16,000 people have been arrested by the military. The Tatmadaw has executed political prisoners for “treason”, including prominent pro-democracy activists.

Every time my parents get a call from our family back in Myanmar, I prepare myself for the news that one of my loved ones has been arrested, injured or murdered. Every single day, I fear for the safety of my family. My heart absolutely hurts for the people of my country, the innocent children that are getting their lives cut short by the military’s cruelty, the brave activists and protestors fighting for our freedom. International organisations have the power and resources to push the military out, yet virtually nothing is being done. How many lives taken away, how much suffering must be endured until we are liberated? Until peace is restored?  

Lin Swe Hlaing – Year 12

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