Since the February 1 coup, the Tatmadaw – the official name of Myanmar’s armed forces – has escalated its crackdown on citizens protesting against the military takeover that ousted Myanmar’s democratically elected government.
Unfortunately, this brutal reaction is only the latest in a series of repressive moves across Southeast Asia in recent years as political groups, backed by powerful militaries, intervene in government. Such dictatorships have arrested the growth of participatory democracies in countries close to Myanmar, including Thailand and Cambodia. The enduring authoritarian governments in Laos and Vietnam do nothing to enhance democracy or the respect for human rights, while nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are fragile democracies.
The semi-democracy that had prevailed in Myanmar since the military began to share power in 2015 came to an abrupt end with the coup. The military’s willingness in 2015 to ease its tight controls on the people of Myanmar was in sharp contrast to its performance since it seized power in a 1962 coup. Under the leadership of General Ne Win, Myanmar (then called Burma) endured 26 years of military rule. In 1988, nationwide protests broke out but were ruthlessly suppressed as hundreds were killed and jailed.