The second anniversary of Myanmar's audacious military coup: International community found wanting

The Tatmadaw's violence, repression, and civil war in Myanmar have left people living in perpetual fear and uncertainty. The international community must restore democracy to Myanmar's youth and give displaced people like the Rohingyas new hope.

Dr Arpita Hazarika Jan 31, 2023
Representational Photo (Photo: Twitter)

The daring military takeover in Myanmar two years ago on February 1 will be remembered as the start of the most oppressive administration in recent memory. The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated drastically since February 2021, and a civil war between the military and the pro-democracy front is still raging. The years 2021 and 2022 were sad for the state of human rights as the military, often known as the Tatmadaw, used excessive violence to put an end to the call for democracy.

A resolution was vetoed by the UN Security Council because of Chinese and Russian support for the Tatmadaw. The lack of unified and resolute action on the part of the international community has resulted in the situation reaching a point where things look intractable .

Unprecedented agony and hardship for the people of Myanmar flowed from the military's unrelenting violence and repression in 2022. Aung San Suu Kyi was one of the prominent leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who was detained by the Tatmadaw two years ago after they attempted a coup and made the absurd claim that elections had been rigged. Despite the fact that the NLD won the election with an overwhelming majority of seats and 83 percent of the vote overall, Tatmadaw rejected the outcome as it wanted to have a hold over Myanmar's politics. The general populace protested against the coup and denounced it. The demonstrations quickly evolved into a civil disobedience movement (CDM), in which professionals from all fields refused to report to work and sought the return of democracy.

The Tatmadaw's response in putting down the protests with bullets covered Myanmar's streets in blood. According to the Thailand-based human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the Tatmadaw has killed roughly 1,500 people and detained up to 9,000 others in the past year. Additionally, the Tatmadaw employed stringent monitoring techniques to stifle protestors' voices. At least 120 journalists have been detained under the recently implemented harsh provision, Section 505A of the penal code, of whom 15 have been found guilty and 50 are still awaiting trial. Seven media outlets' licenses as well as those for satellite television have been revoked.

Growing civil society resistance

After the People's Defence Force (PDF) was established as the political branch of the National Unity Government in the midst of the bloody crackdown, the CDM changed into an armed resistance group (NUG). Even though NUG has the least power over the force, former NLD officials and pro-democracy fronts founded NUG and PDF as their armed wings. PDF and NUG gradually became the main political groups in Myanmar. To combat PDF, Tatmadaw has increased its level of aggression, whereas PDF prefers guerrilla warfare. According to UN estimates, at least 406,000 people have been displaced due to the intensifying civil war in the country.

Myanmar's economy has also been destroyed by political unrest. Foreign companies' withdrawal and currency depreciation have stifled the nation's economic expansion.

Even while previous military coups encountered the least resistance, this one resulted in a hitherto unheard-of movement against the dictatorship. The youth of the nation has demonstrated a strong belief in democracy and have remained at the forefront of the protest. The "Five Twos," often referred to as Myanmar's "Generation Z," have taken the Tatmadaw and the rest of the world by surprise. Their political awareness is commendable, and they exhibit an unwavering spirit of resistance.

The Tatmadaw realised it suffered from an image crisis after the youth rebellion was violently put down, and they now worry about maintaining power in the face of unabated popular upsurge. 

On the other hand, the people of Myanmar are hoping for the global community to change things and bring back democracy. Ironically, there has been no progress by the international community, which remains bitterly split over the issue.

People living in fear and uncertainty

The lives of Myanmar's residents and ethnic communities are filled with instability due to the lackluster responses of the international community, the geopolitical alignment of major countries, the lengthy history of military rule, and the Tatmadaw's counter-insurgency operations. Torture, famine, and displacement are the three main pillars of modern-day Myanmarese society.

The Tatmadaw has not been significantly impacted by major corporations, such as Chevron and Total, leaving the country in protest against violations of human rights.  The curses of humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing, are not what drives the actions of nations; rather it is geopolitical interests. Although many people believed NUG would have international assistance to drive the Tatmadaw out, in reality, it has not succeeded in securing the backing of significant international players beyond mere lip service.

Situations like these, ranging from the Rohingya catastrophe to the Middle East conflict, have demonstrated how keenly global powers have focused on securing their own interests through strategic realignments and readjustments. Bangladesh has been affected by the military takeover in Myanmar and the subsequent political developments have put on hold the repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

The Tatmadaw's violence, repression, and civil war in Myanmar have left people living in perpetual fear and uncertainty. The international community must restore democracy to Myanmar's youth and give displaced people like the Rohingyas new hope. Before it's too late the international community must respond in a concerted manner. The Tatmadaw will grow in strength with the great nations failing to act, prolonging the agony and vulnerability of the people of Myanmar in 2023 and beyond.

(The author is a Gauhati University, India, based researcher. Views are personal. She can be contacted at

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