Maryam Ibrahim has recently graduated from Lahore College for Women University with a bachelor's in international relations. Her sphere of interest includes the digitalization of international relations, specifically digital diplomacy.
Summarising Myanmar’s Political History
Different instrumental regimes have existed throughout history, shaping the populace into civilizations while upholding its coherence and structure. The kinds of governance evolved periodically as society moved closer to civilization. Since the conclusion of the Cold War, democracy has held its place as the most potent and prevalent political dogma in the world, but now, there are more democratic countries than ever before. As per H.L. Mencken, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard”.
Since attaining its independence, Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, has been subjected to a brutal military dictatorship, protracted civil war, and abject poverty. Since 1948, when it gained independence from British colonial control, Myanmar has experienced a precarious democracy. The country’s first military takeover occurred in 1962 when military leader Ne Win seized control, outlawed all opposition groups, and exerted control over enterprises and industries, causing an economic slump.
1988 saw the beginning of pro-democracy demonstrations, which were violently suppressed by the military and resulted in the deaths of 5,000 people. Aung San Suu established the National League for Democracy (NLD) later that year. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) then welcomed Myanmar as a member in 1997.
Only two days after Cyclone Nargis, the democratization process began with a contentious constitutional vote. Later in 2015, Suu Kyi becomes the head of the NLD when the party easily wins the national elections. The crisis faced by the Rohingya people spanned the years 2016 through 2019. The NLD, in 2020, claimed that it won the parliamentary elections with a landslide after receiving more votes than it did in 2015.
Military Coup of 2021
After seizing power in February 2021, the military, often known as the Tatmadaw, imprisoned a significant number of key government officials and prevented the newly elected parliament from attending a meeting. This completely derailed Myanmar’s already-stalled journey to democracy. The Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which was organized by the NLD, which won the 2020 elections, was a significant demonstration that lasted the entire year.
The military’s severe violations throughout the conflict and violent assault on the opposition have received criticism from the United Nations, other states, and human rights organizations. Military soldiers fired live bullets at civilian protestors and into houses in the immediate aftermath of the coup. By the end of 2021, the military was massacring both civilians and rebel militants while razing entire communities that were allegedly supporting the resistance.
Executions in Myanmar
Because it is struggling and weakened, democracy is currently in peril. Myanmar is a real-world illustration of how democracy is eroding. Having a democratic index score of just 1.02, it is among the worst five. But the event on July 25, 2022, made matters worse. When the military junta of Myanmar executed four pro-democracy activists, including a rapper and former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party – Phyo Zeya Thaw – and the well-known democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, known as Jimmy.
It shocked and outraged people as it was the first time in decades that the country had used the death penalty. The executions were justified by allegations that they participated in terrorist attacks and rebel activities against the Myanmar army. The high-profile executions were the most recent indication that the civil war in Myanmar is intensifying, nearly 18 months after the military overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup, and formed a shadow government in Myanmar, in February 2021.
Rationale Behind the Executions
The junta’s major motivation for taking this action is survival and instilling fear. The government has long since given up trying to influence the people of Myanmar in any meaningful way. It also doesn’t try to start a conversation or de-escalate the situation in any way. Despite criticism from the world community and with little consequence, the generals attempt to control the populace via intimidation and violence.
Repercussions of the Myanmar Executions
Following the killing of activists, there was a strong outcry and criticism from both the Myanmarese and the international community. Despite a prohibition on social media, the people of Myanmar utilized it to voice their rage. However, a few courageous protesters appeared on the streets of Yangoon with a banner that said, “We will never be terrified,” and they recorded themselves so that the world could see that not even the threat of death could intimidate them.
The whole world denounced this horrifying incident. The American Embassy in Myanmar condemned “the military regime’s execution of pro-democracy leaders and elected officials for exercising their fundamental freedoms.”
Amnesty International stated, “These executions amount to arbitrary deprivation of lives and are another example of Myanmar’s atrocious human rights record. The four men were convicted by a military court in highly secretive and deeply unfair trials. The international community must act immediately as more than 100 people are believed to be on death row after being convicted in similar proceedings.”
The Japanese foreign ministry said, “This goes against our repeated calls for all detainees to be freed. It also will sharpen the feelings of the (Myanmar) people and worsen the conflict, as well as deepen Myanmar’s isolation from the international community. It is a matter of deep concern.”
And several human rights groups and fellow pro-democracy activists expressed their outrage, dismay, and disgust at the barbaric executions of the pro-democracy protestors in Myanmar. According to Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, the execution of four political activists in Myanmar represents a “serious setback” for ASEAN’s efforts to encourage national reconciliation in that country.
The ASEAN chair for this year, Cambodia, stated that the junta’s “severe lack of will” to support the bloc’s efforts to foster discussion between the military and its opponents was proven by the execution. “It is exceedingly repugnant that the death sentences were carried out just one week before the 55th ASEAN ministerial summit,” Cambodia stated.
As its residents feel like slaves and are trapped in a prolonged conflict, Myanmar is quickly returning to the time when it was cut off from the outside world. The Myanmar executions represent an unsuccessful effort by the military junta to intimidate the populace and the opposition. But the outcry was overwhelming. Additionally, it gave the protesters against the military’s misdeeds a fresh soul.
If you want to submit your articles and/or research papers, please check the Submissions page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.