In the early morning hours of February 1, 2021, the Burmese military took control of the government in Myanmar. In a coup that had been brewing for several weeks, the military took control by cutting off access to the internet, taking control of the state-run media, and arresting the nation’s duly-elected leaders. Notably, the military detained Nobel Laureate and highest ranking official in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of her majority party, the National League for Democracy.
The coup came after weeks of complaints that Suu Kyi and her party rigged the election in their favor. Independent election observers and Myanmar’s election commission deny these claims. Despite the lack of evidence, the military justified their actions using a clause in the country’s constitution that allows them to wrest control in the event of a national emergency. The Burmese military is essentially a political party in Myanmar and holds 25% of the seats in the Parliament.
This is a large setback not only for democracy but human rights as well. When Suu Kyi was first placed under house arrest in 1991, it was in response to a similar situation wherein the military refused to hand over power to a democratically-elected person. This further hampers the world’s hope that Myanmar would take strides towards freedom.
A military takeover sparks fears of a return to not only government oppression of every citizen, but the continuance of a genocide against the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar. According to the Council On Foreign Relations, the civilian power-sharing situation did little to stop the genocide of the Rohingya, but the lack of a civilian check to this power creates a dangerous prospect for those remaining in Myanmar. Since 2017, the Rohingya have fled their murderous government, as detailed by Human Rights Watch. Without having to appease a civilian leader, the military, which had been pressuring Aung San Suu Kyi into denying the existence of the genocide, may be emboldened to act more agressively. According to Human Rights Watch, 600,000 Rohingya are detained in camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. This power play by the military may give them the chance to effectively finish the job and exterminate the Rohingya.
Despite many negative prospects, there may be a small glimmer of hope for the people of Myanmar. This coup may give the United States the political cover it needs to take a hard line stance against the Burmese junta. Prior to the takeover, the United States couldn’t threaten the stability of a government that was progressively getting more democratic. This major setback may allow the United States to enact more sanctions or, if needed, take military action. If the Burmese military continues to oppress the Burmese people including the Rohingya, forces for good must act swiftly and effectively. The United States is not the world’s police, but to stand by while known atrocities occur is immoral. The world does not know what the Burmese military will do next, but if they move to eradicate the Royinga people, the United States and Myanmar’s neighbors have no choice but to act.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.