A military coup in Myanmar overthrew the country’s government, leading to protests and changing the U.S. foreign policy stance of “America First.”
Violence continues to surge in Myanmar as major democracies come to terms with their limited ability to influence the catastrophe, according to the U.K. foreign office assessment. In response, President Biden announced, on Feb. 10, that there were to be new billion dollar sanctions on the generals who engineered the coup.
Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, a 19-year-old female protestor of the new military regime, tragically died on Feb. 19, as a result of a gunshot to the head from police forces, according to the AP report. The woman’s sister, Mya Thatoe Nwe, stood by the hospital’s mortuary, and advocated for people not to give up the fight to restore democracy.
“Please participate and continue fighting until we achieve our goal,” said Nwe, to AP.
Mya Thwet Thwet Khin is one of thousands of protestors that are peacefully fighting for democracy to resume.
In what the Biden administration labeled a “coup,” the Myanmar military took control of the country’s government, which was a newly democratic regime led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup is a result of long standing differences between the military and democratic power in Myanmar.
Until 2011, Myanmar, formerly Burma, was run by the strong-hand military. Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, won the election in a comprehensive victory. Yet when it came time for her to take her place in power and make changes, the military took control to conserve their power. Both the former democratic leaders of Myanmar, President Win Myint and Suu Kyi, are in detention and facing criminal charges.
One of the main reasons for the overthrow is the tensions over how the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group, should be treated. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres describes the Rohingya as, “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world,” to BBC.
“When civilian leader Suu Kyi came into power, she decided to not challenge the military over the genocide, even defending their actions in an international court,” said Vox.
In 2020, Suu Kyi campaigned, “for further restricting the military’s role in governing the country, and in parliamentary elections in November, her party won a sweeping victory, essentially giving her a mandate to pursue those changes,” Vox reported.
An article from Vox outlines how the coup began, with the military seeing “restrictions” as a threat to their power.
“A military spokesperson said the military intervened after the government failed to postpone the November election due to the pandemic and because the government did not act on the military’s allegations of voter fraud,” reported USA Today.
However, with no sign of voter fraud, publications suggest that the true reason for the military takeover is the threat to military power that Suu Kyi poses.
“Biden said he had been in touch with Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell about a bipartisan response to try to urge the Southeast Asian nation’s military to release detained activists and officials, and end the coup,” according to NPR on Feb. 4. This response will most likely consist of partnered economic sanctions against Myanmar. The U.K. and Australia joined the U.S. in condemning the coup.
In the meantime the military leader, Chief Min Aung Hlaing, has ordered an internet shutdown and taken news channels off air, according to a CNN World report. The citizens of Myanmar have taken to the streets to protest the injustices.
The situation has President Biden going against the former Trump administration and calculating a plan to assist Myanmar in due time. His stance on implementing sanctions is a symbol, according to NPR, that signals Biden’s shift away from former President Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy approach.
As for the people of Myanmar, “Each night since the coup, residents in the main cities have been showing their dissent by banging pots and honking car horns,” reported BBC.
With the rise of citizens protesting for democracy has come the rise in military regime policing. With more and more restrictions being implemented towards the citizens freedom, more resistance has been shown.
“Myanmar’s new military rulers…signaled their intention to crack down on opponents of their takeover, issuing decrees that effectively banned peaceful public protests in the country’s two biggest cities,” said an AP report posted on Feb. 8.
With people like Myan Thwet Thewt Khine and her sister, the protests continue. As people of Myanmar and global citizens continue to speak up against the oppressive regime, foregin leaders are continuing to back the fight. With foreign intervention increasing, Myanmar will continue to pose as an important situation for the Biden administration to address.