Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Jeet Purohit 9th Etiwanda High
By anyone’s admission, the country of Burma is very old. The first city-states and kingdoms in the Myanmar region were goldmines of literature, and culture flourished. Later however, the East India Company annexed Burma, and Burma remained under British rule until 1948. Aung San, commonly known as the “father of the nation” of Myanmar, negotiated the independence of Myanmar as a country with the British. This was when the real troubles started. Due to internal strife, Burma, as it was known back then, was unstable. The ruling party was divided in its rule, and a foreign policy of impartiality did not gain any favors from any countries. In 1962, the general of the military, Ne Win took over the government in a bloodless coup. The military ruled Myanmar from 1962 all the way to 2011. Throughout this time, the government adopted a policy of self-sufficiency, which led to the government going into bankruptcy and the people’s needs being supplied by illegal smuggling and the black market. In 1988, political unrest led to what is known as the 8888 uprising, where around three hundred and fifty civilians died. This led to an overhaul of the government, and moving from a socialist regime to a capitalist union. In 1990, the first free elections in almost thirty years were held, and the party of Aung San’s daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi won, with almost eighty percent of the vote. However, the military refused to cede power and continued to rule, holding Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. In 2007, an extremely large increase in the price of fuel led to the Saffron Revolution, where many unarmed protesters were arrested and a few were even killed. From 2011-2021, Myanmar grew towards a more democratic, fair government. In the 2020 elections, the military heavily disputed the results, even though multiple third parties had declared it fair. On February 1st 2021, the military officially took power, and protests have been going on ever since. Myanmar has closed their borders and has heavily restricted travel and electronic communications. 38 people were killed after just one day of protesting. As of March 26th, police and soldiers have killed around 320 people, the youngest being a 6 year old.
Myanmar is a very ethnically diverse place with more than 135 different ethnic groups, and many, many civil wars/conflicts have happened since its founding. There are not one but two but FIVE different ethnic conflicts going on in Myanmar right now. These insurgent armies are the Kachin Independence Army, the Karenni Army, the Karen National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army, and the Shan State Army. One of these insurgent armies, the Karen National Liberation Army, has been fighting against the Burmese government since 1949. Some reports suggest that the Burmese government has marked certain ethnic groups for extermination, and the United Nations has accused the Burmese military, or the Tatmadaw, of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar is not a safe place to live right now. The income gap is one of the widest of all countries in the world, and the Human Development Index ranks it as 147th in the world, and there is just about a different danger in every state. Larger cities such as Naypyidaw and Yangon have been the subject of crackdowns on protests by the nation’s military. Policemen and soldiers commonly use live ammunition to disperse protesters, and fire bombs have been thrown into neighborhoods. Many are arrested, and then their dead bodies returned a few days later. The Civil Disobedience Movement has encouraged everyone from healthcare workers to copper miners to go on a labor strike, and because of this, Myanmar’s economy is expected to shrink 15% in 2021 due to these protests combined with the pandemic. The healthcare in Myanmar was already notably poor before the pandemic. The government spends about 0.5% to 3% of its GDP on healthcare, the lowest in the world. Myanmar’s military expenses are also among the highest in the world. The Burmese media is also controlled by the government, and almost all publications undergo censorship before being published. News sources that criticize the military are shut down, and many reporters are arrested for opposing the government.
In conclusion, instability in Myanmar is an ongoing crisis because many people are dying each day due to the military’s policies that endanger the citizens.