On February 1, the Myanmar military—known as the Tatmadaw—staged a coup d’etat, overthrowing the Southeast Asian country’s government. This restricting takeover, involving the detainments of government officials and internet shutdowns, came after a 12-year quasi-democratic rule under State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and supported campaigns against Myanmar’s religious and ethnic minority groups, including the Rohingya, the Shan and the Kokang. Protests quickly broke out in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city, as well as in many nearby countries, including India, Thailand, Israel and South Korea. Despite isolated breakouts of violence, these demonstrations were generally peaceful.
On February 24, Facebook announced that it had banned Myanmar’s military from its platforms, which were previously used to provide a rationale for the coup and to create support for the military. These bans were followed by multiple military-controlled internet blackouts, which blocked citizens from the outside world and vice versa.
By the middle of March, the military had taken on a much more violent reaction to protests. “Yesterday we were informed [of] 149 [deaths],” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 17. “Now we can say 202 since February 1, including 121 since last Friday.”
On March 19, the United States House of Representatives passed on a resolution that would condemn the military coup in Myanmar, calling for the Biden administration to place sanctions on the military generals who orchestrated the coup. This was the last update published on the Anchor’s website. What has happened since?
On Tuesday, November 9, two members of ousted democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party were sentenced to 90 and 75 years, respectively, by a court in Myanmar. They were found guilty of corruption and, according to The Guardian, face the most severe sentences out of the dozens of arrested members from the National League for Democracy.
American journalist Danny Fenster, who had already been detained in Myanmar for over five months, was charged with treason and terrorism on the same day. These two charges make a total of five charges against Fenster, who worked as the managing editor of the news magazine Frontier Myanmar and was arrested in May while waiting to board a flight back to the United States.
After the last Anchor update, violence in Myanmar quickly escalated, with the military beginning to use live rounds against civilians, according to the New York Times. Anti-junta mobs continued taking to the streets daily in flash marches, but the Tatmadaw’s lethal reaction caused the number of deaths incurred by the military passing 1,000 by August 18. According to Ko Bo Gyi, the secretary of activist group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the actual number was likely far higher. “As long as the military is in power, they will continue to kill youths, professionals like doctors and teachers, men, women and children,” he said. “They are not only killing our lives but the country’s future and democratic hopes.” Along with an ever-increasing death toll, citizens of Myanmar faced and continue to face mass arrests.
On October 29, the military took further direct, catastrophic action against more civilians, burning down over 160 houses and two church buildings in Thantlang, a hilltop town of roughly 8,000 people in Myanmar’s northwestern Chin state. What is left of the town has been occupied by soldiers, and many of Thantlang’s residents have fled in fear of arrest or death. This is a nationwide response, with over 250,000 displaced citizens, according to news organization Al Jazeera.
An Inside Voice
“This should’ve never happened,” said Susan Par (’22), when asked about her thoughts on the unrest in Myanmar. “It’s inhumane and wrong. What would you do if your whole neighborhood was burned down… by the military and you can’t use your insurance? Or if stay[ing] in that neighborhood [means] you’ll be killed by the military? Their whole city was burned down. Keep in mind that Myanmar is a developing country. My heart breaks for the families in Thantlang, especially for the children. They’re forced to flee and change their life.”
Par, a senior from Battle Creek, MI studying Business and Accounting, has family in Thantlang and worries about the impact this attack will have on them. “This is a traumatic experience that they will grow up and struggle with. This could’ve been prevented. My family has lived in Thantlang since I was little. It was a safe city where I would be able to walk down the street and buy materials for my mom as a 6-year-old, alone. My grandma has also fled to another place. I am thankful that some people have fled and are accepted in Mizoram, [India] and India successfully. I was actually born in Mizoram, which is one of the larger cities. I pray that the survivors have everything they need to start a new life.”
Trigger warning: disturbing image/talk of death
Par also calls our attention to the following screenshot, which pictures a caption from the Instagram user @instamyanmar, an account that recently halted its posts centered on tourism in order to bring awareness to the unjust actions of the Myanmar military.
In a rare occurrence, the United Nations Security Council—which currently consists of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Estonia, India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam—issued a statement addressing the increased violence across Myanmar on Wednesday, November 10. The statement calls for an immediate end to the fighting, reading, “The Members of the Security Council […] reiterated their deep concern at developments in Myanmar following the declaration of the state of emergency imposed on 1 February and their call on the military to exercise utmost restraint.”
When asked what we at Hope College can do to help, Par responded, “Let’s educate ourselves about what’s happening and really put pressure on our representatives to help Myanmar. Let’s vote as students, faculty members, and as a community. Please keep the people of Myanmar who are being constantly threatened, those who have lost all their belongings, even losing loved ones, in your prayers.” Find and contact your representatives from the Senate and House of Representatives here to make your voice heard today.