Crackdown, Meet Backlash

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The military junta that controls Myanmar recently put deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi into solitary confinement. She has been imprisoned since February 2021 when the junta overthrew her elected government, the BBC reported.

Suu Kyi, 77, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest under previous military junta leaders in the South Asian country. She denies the charges of incitement, corruption and other allegations against her, claiming they are politically motivated.

The change in her status is yet another sign of how Myanmar has been descending into totalitarianism amid widespread resistance to the junta’s February 2021 coup. As the New York Times explained, in 2011, the county’s military leaders, who had been in power since 1962, allowed for a “quasi-democracy” that included parliamentary elections and other reforms.

These reforms didn’t necessarily stop the junta’s horrific policies. In 2017, it launched genocidal attacks against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, said Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, as Suu Kyi and others gained more political power, the military took control once again. Civil unrest resulted. Myanmar’s authorities have arrested at least 11,000 people in the past year, the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported recently.

The junta has not executed political prisoners for 30 years but officials recently said they would proceed with executions of pro-democracy activists who are now on death row in Myanmar for speaking out about the junta’s human rights violations, wrote the Washington Post.

The US has imposed sanctions on Myanmar due to its human rights violations. But pro-democracy activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi recently called on President Joe Biden in a New York Times op-ed to impose further sanctions on the junta that would target their oil exports. Given current energy shortages, that is not very likely.

Still, Myanmar is becoming isolated internationally due to the junta’s actions. United Nations officials said the junta’s promise of free and fair elections in the future was preposterous, the Associated Press wrote. The country’s defense minister recently attended a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations even though members of the group have sought to exclude him, reported Reuters.

Rebel groups are also preparing to take on the military. An English-language publication that covers Myanmar, the Irrawaddy, reported that defense forces associated with the National Unity Government, established by lawmakers ousted in the coup, control more than 90 percent of the country’s roads, isolating the junta in population centers. Guerillas are now conducting attacks in the cities, too.

Most believe the junta’s days are numbered. The question is now, how bad does it get until then.

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