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The Myanmar Military Coup and The Ongoing Crisis


Makayla Bangoura

Overview

It has been almost two years since the coup d’etat that occurred in Myanmar in 2021. The military coup and the demise of the democratically elected government has led to a serious humanitarian issue and armed conflict. The international community has called for the intervention of the United Nations to extend humanitarian aid and to bring an end to the human rights violations in Myanmar.


Historical Background

The government in the nation of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has seen a fair share of instability since gaining its independence from Britain in 1948. Since then, the state had been ruled by its military, also known as the Tatmadaw, until 2011 when the military junta was dissolved, and Thein Sein was appointed as the new president of Myanmar. Thein Sein was a former general in the Myanmar military and served as the Prime Minister from 2007 to 2011 after the sitting Prime Minister, Soe Win, fell ill. Sein's presidency allowed for the return of civilian rule to Myanmar through several democratic reforms such as decreasing media censorship and pardoning political prisoners. In November 2020, a general election was held, with four main parties participating: the National League for Democracy (NLD), Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and Arakan National Party. The NLD, a pro-democracy party, won the election in a landslide and the UNSDP, the party supported by the Tatmadaw, performed poorly. The military claimed that there were instances of voting fraud and illegal repeat voting during the election, thus setting the stage for their coup.


The Coup & The Aftermath

In February of 2021, the Tatmadaw staged a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government. The coup sparked massive uprisings and protests throughout the nation, all of which aimed to contest the new central authority. The military attempted to solidify its power by committing acts of violence against the people of Myanmar. This conflict has brought about the dismantling of state structures and institutions and has disrupted the social and economic infrastructure of the country. According to the data provided by the United Nations in 2022, around 700,000 civilians have been internally displaced in Myanmar, and 250,000 of these civilians are children. This crisis has caused one of the world’s largest refugee emergencies with roughly one million refugees fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Since the coup took place, the military has continuously violated the human rights of the people of Myanmar, breaking international law. The United Nations Child Rights Committee stated that the Tatmadaw has killed around 382 children and captured 1,400 children as hostages. Additionally, child hostages have been subjected to torture and have been victims of sexual abuse. The actions of the Tatmadaw since the coup constitute human rights violations and are condemned by the United Nations Security Council. Reports indicated that the military burned, shot, and tortured civilians, leading the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to urge the international community to take “concerted, immediate measures to stem the spiral of violence.” In December of 2022, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 2669 demanding an end to all violence in Myanmar.


The Current State of Myanmar

Myanmar is currently facing one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world and the state is in desperate need of more aid. The United Nations has made numerous statements regarding the crisis and has made an effort to provide aid. However, the humanitarian needs of the people in Myanmar have not been adequately met, as over 17.6 million people still require aid. Furthermore, the Tatmadaw have effectively used their military strategy to prevent life-saving aid from entering the country. So far, the European Union (EU) and the United States have been the largest providers of humanitarian aid. In 2023 the EU issued a statement stating they are providing 31.5 million Euros to “address the immediate needs of the most vulnerable people in Myanmar." The United States also announced to give $50 million in humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar. As this year comes to an end, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has begun to plan for 2024 and set goals for addressing those who are suffering from this crisis. The UNHCR has declared its plan to focus on delivering humanitarian aid in a timely manner and supporting 100,000 families to meet their basic needs.


Conclusion

The coup that was carried out by the Tatmadaw has grown into a great human disaster. Since the initial coup in February of 2021, the number of displaced individuals and refugees has reached almost one million. As the need for humanitarian aid and effective crisis intervention grows, it is imperative that the international community strongly addresses this crisis going forward. I would recommend that the United Nations Security Council pass a resolution that addresses the Tatmadaw’s attempts at preventing aid from entering Myanmar and reprimand their actions on a global stage.

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