The Global Tremors of Myanmar’s Coup
Given Myanmar’s strategic location, violent turmoil there could destabilize the entire region. Already, the crisis caused by the military coup is shaking a key pillar of regional order, with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations split over how to respond.
BANGKOK – Myanmar is leading Southeast Asia’s race to the political bottom. Since overthrowing a civilian government on February 1, the military has killed more than 530 unarmed civilian protesters and arrested thousands more. Now, the country is confronting a deepening humanitarian crisis and the growing possibility of a civil war – developments that would have serious regional and even global consequences.
Myanmar’s civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, may not have been perfect, but it had the people’s support. In last November’s election, the NLD won a strong majority against the military-backed opposition. Within weeks, the military, under orders issued by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, had arrested Suu Kyi and other NLD ministers and declared a one-year state of emergency.
Myanmar has been here before, having endured nearly a half-century of military dictatorship and international isolation following the 1962 putsch and a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988. But there is something different about this coup: no matter how freely the military beats and shoots civilians, the protesters’ movement – built on an exigent alliance between civilian authorities and armed ethnic groupings – will not submit.