*Trigger Warning: Disturbing Image*
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. 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. By February 9, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had spoken out against the military coup, and President Biden threatened to impose sanctions. China, however, responded cautiously to maintain its relationships with both Suu Kyi and the Tatmadaw. On February 24, Facebook announced that it had banned Myanmar’s military from its platforms, which were previously used mainly to provide rationale for the coup and to create support for the military.
On February 31, at least four deaths had occurred as a result of the coup, but that number has only increased over the past month. The Tatmadaw has become much more liberal with its use of deadly violence against unarmed protesters. “Yesterday we were informed [of] 149 [deaths], now we can say 202 since February 1, including 121 since last Friday,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 17. At least 31 of these deaths occurred on the afternoon of March 14, when another wave of killing began in the Hlaingthaya district of Yangon, which is heavily populated by factory workers. According to the New York Times, soldiers and police officers were deployed to the area and created the highest daily death toll in one location since the start of the coup. That evening, the ruling military declared martial law in the Hlaingthaya district, which allows them to assume all authority in the township from the local police.
Frequent internet blackouts, which typically occur at night, have also increased safety concerns. These blackouts obscure nighttime raids that pull people from their homes. According to CNN, many who are arbitrarily detained in these raids are kept out of contact from their family and friends, who have no idea where they are or if they are alive. “With the internet shut down, the people inside areas sealed off by the military and police have no access to the outside world,” said John Quinley, the senior human rights specialist at the rights group Fortify Rights. “The junta is trying to stop any information about the violence they are committing from getting out. The junta is trying to create a total blackout.”
On Friday, March 19, the United States House of Representatives voted on a resolution that would condemn the military coup in Myanmar. It passed by a 398-14 vote; the 14 opposing votes came from House Republicans, namely Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Ken Buck of Colorado, Mary Miller of Illinois, Chip Roy of Texas, Jody Hice of Georgia, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Harris of Maryland, Ted Budd of North Carolina and Barry Moore of Alabama. Thirteen of these representatives are part of the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus. Still, the vote condemned the military generals who orchestrated the coup and called for the Biden administration to place sanctions on them.
What can the Hope community do to help? The Asian Student Union is hosting a fundraising event, with gift bags available for $5 and $10. Venmo users can also donate to the fundraiser by sending money to the account with the username @asu_hope. More information, along with the QR code for the sign-up Google form, is available on the poster pictured below.
Additionally, Asian Student Union President Susan Par (’22) pointed out the inappropriate response of York University Professor Emanoil Theodorescu to a Myanmar student’s email about missing the exam because of the rocky environment the coup has created. The email thread, which has gone viral, shows Theodorescu refusing the student an extension and crudely asking, “Even the Internet came down with Covid-19?” and stating, “By the way, your remarks (both related to this course and to your home country) made me wonder how you understand reality. People don’t get shot for just protesting, but for a lot deeper reasons. And with loading everything on the final exam — it’s going to be tough to pass the course — for lack of practice if nothing else.”
“I wish professors would be more understanding of international students and educate themselves on what’s happening in the world,” said Par.
What’s most important for the Hope community is to actively educate ourselves, strive for empathy and offer any help we can.