THE protests against Myanmar’s Feb 1 military coup have refused to die down, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets against the generals’ power grab. The coup was triggered by the military’s lack of acceptance of recent election results, in which the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy did well. While already controlling parliament through reserved seats for uniformed lawmakers, the generals were apparently not happy with the growing power of the civilians and decided to strike, citing electoral “irregularities”, though no serious proof of election fraud has been uncovered. It seems the junta did not expect such a public reaction to the coup. After the passage of nearly a month since the takeover, the protests have only gathered steam even though there have been fatalities, while the generals have ominously warned of “loss of life” if the “confrontation” continues.

Much of the world community, led by the UN, has condemned the military coup and called for a swift return to civilian rule. “Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights”, the UN secretary general has said. It is unfortunate that much of Myanmar’s post-colonial history has been marred by military interference in matters of governance, with the civilians frequently sidelined by those in uniform. This has resulted in the retardation of Myanmar’s political system, as evidenced by multiple ethnic and religious conflicts within the country. Ms Suu Kyi was hardly an ideal leader, her pro-democracy credentials severely tarnished by her cold silence as the military butchered Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya in a merciless campaign. However, the fact is that the country’s problems have been exacerbated by the military’s lengthy rule, and it is only through the continuation of the democratic process that all of Myanmar’s people — regardless of ethnic background and religious belief — can expect justice. The junta should return to the barracks, respect the popular will and let the political process continue in Myanmar, instead of training its guns on its own people.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2021

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