Myanmar Coup D'état
Myanmar, the verdant Southeast Asian country, with which the saber-rattling powers of China and India, and the modestly-developing nations of Laos, Thailand, and Bangladesh share a border, witnessed for the second time in its young history a veritable coup d’état.
Coup d’état. It’s one of the few French terms with which there’s near universal familiarity, to which both pedestrian and pundit alike make frequent reference. Yet it describes a phenomenon by which, mercifully, so few of us in the West have been personally affected. Those in the East, however, specifically the poor citizens of Myanmar, could only hope to enjoy so distant a detachment from so terrifying a word.
Literally, it translates to mean a “blow” or a “strike” of state, an event by which the prevailing government is suddenly, and sometimes violently, interrupted and overthrown. History is rife with a thousand examples of so startling a political event—some tranquil, most sanguinary, but all remarkable for the imprint they’ve left. The base trickery of Peisistratus in sixth century Athens; the righteous fury of Brutus in response to Tarquin’s abuse; the dissolution of the Rump Parliament by the haughty Oliver Cromwell; and the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 are but a few examples to which, when thinking of coups, one’s mind immediately leaps.
The point is, seldom a decade passes without some state, somewhere, experiencing so ageless and inexorable an event. Our present decade, the second of the 2000s, has proven itself no exception to this law. Like so many before it, our era is observant of this unbending commandment of politics, this dictate of nations from which, sadly, there’s no escape.
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar—upon emerging from the shadow of British colonial rule—was created in very much the same way as it seems presently to have died: by way of a military coup. In 1962, when the state, now freshly autonomous, was in the wobbly stage of its vulnerable infancy, a military dictatorship was declared. Jealous of its power, the junta by which it was led held control for the subsequent twenty-six years.
In the 1990s, an Oxford-educated, democratically-inclined advocate of peace emerged in opposition to the tyranny under which she and her countrymen lived. Her name was Aung San Suu Kyi, the biological daughter of a “Father” from whom her fellow citizens claimed a mutual descent. As a result of her laudable and irenic work, she was recognized by the fellowship of Alfred Nobel for the purity of her endeavors and the peaceful outcomes after which she relentlessly sought.
The world applauded the sincerity of her commitment to peace, and encouraged the flight of her ambitions toward the liberty of her people, to be gained, of course, by none but tranquil means. The military of Myanmar, however, thought differently of her aim. It esteemed very little her new laureate pedigree, and thought very anxiously of what she might do next. In truth, it viewed her as nothing but a political threat around whom, so long as the Burmese people would allow, it’d be wise to keep an ever-tightening leash. To this end, she was placed under house arrest, where she lived as a political prisoner, of sorts, for many years.
In time, she emerged from her coerced and prolonged obscurity to become State Counsellor of Myanmar, President of the National League for Democracy, and, most recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the now-deflated cabinet of President Win Myint. She was thought to be instrumental in loosening the military’s grip over her beloved state, a land in which, admittedly, the values of democracy haven’t yet been deeply rooted.
The warmth of her personality, the agreeableness of her philosophy, and the tact of her political approach were undoubtedly on the ascendant. In Myanmar’s elections on November 8th, 2020, her party won 396 parliamentary seats, out of an available 476. The military party, for which popular tolerance had grown understandably thin, won only 33 seats.
Vox populi had never been so compelling, and the status quo, never so legitimately endangered.
Sensing the tidal shift in popular opinion, and incapable of resisting the strong sweep of its democratizing winds, the Myanmar military resorted to that maneuver to which it’s most shamelessly accustomed: the coup d’état. In the broad light of day, it overwhelmed the Parliamentary building over which, at long last, democracy thought it might exercise control. It proceeded to detain Suu Kyi, Win Myint, and other prominent members of the NLD Party on whom it fixed its sight. It instituted a nightly curfew, severed lines of communication, nullified the November election results, and declared itself, under the convenient guise of a “State of Emergency”, the sole proprietor of the government for the next year.
Before our very eyes, the coup was complete. We now await the response of the Burmese people and the outrage, or the indifference, of the rest of the world.