The military coup that has ended Myanmar’s civilian government and brought military chief Min Aung Hlaing to power is a dangerous and anti-democratic move that is very worrying to those concerned with human rights, civil rights, and the development of democracy.
At the sixth conference on America’s Role in the World®, participants worried about the “global anti-democratic wave,” the international trend of nations from Eastern Europe to the Americas to Asia moving away from democratic participation toward restrictions in voting rights, the press, and free speech. For the first time since 1991, the majority of states with a population over 1 million are not democracies.
At the same conference, Burmese Rohingya activist Wai Wai Nu discussed the future of human rights and equality in Myanmar and emphasized that the “democratic” government of Aung San Suu Kyi had not taken seriously the abuses of the military against Rohingya. The country’s advance toward democracy, she argued, had come without a necessary expansion of voting rights and freedoms to ethnic minorities.
Despite these serious lapses of the civilian government, which included voting discrimination in Myanmar’s 2020 elections, Nu did not condone the government’s toppling. Writing on twitter, she said, “I strongly object #militarycoup & ask #tamadaw to immediately release NLD leaders to be able proceed with country’s third Parliament & form new government.”
To Nu, the civilian’s government refusal to stand up to the military for their violence against the Rohingya is connected to the military’s boldness in forcibly reversing the recent elections, which they lost.
“This coup is the result of a collective international failure to respond to the Rohingya genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the military,” said Nu, who is a fellow of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The military was emboldened by the fact that they got away with the genocide, and now believes that they can get away with a coup.”
You can watch Nu’s conversation with Amb. Lee Feinstein, founding dean of the Hamilton Lugar School, here.