April 7, 2021

Explained: Why are the people of Myanmar protesting?



Widespread protests are taking place in Myanmar over what many people feel is an attack on democracy. News2day, RTÉ’s news programme aimed at a younger audience, looks at what the protests are about and why they are taking place.

Myanmar is in southeast Asia, and used to be called Burma. In 1962, the military took power and formed a dictatorship, which is when one person or a small group has all the power in the country. People living in dictatorships often have less freedom and worse living conditions.

In 1988, the Burmese people wanted democracy, which is when everyone has a say in the running of a country. Around 5,000 people were killed when they protested, but it brought about change in the country.

The face of change was a woman called Aung San Suu Kyi. She set up the National League for Democracy party, or NLD, and since then power has flip-flopped between them and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association, or USDA.

Ms Suu Kyi was arrested and detained by the military three times. She lived under house arrest for many years, and was praised worldwide for her peaceful fight for democracy. She even won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work. She was also given the freedom of the city of Dublin in 2000.

In 2015, she led her NLD party to a huge victory in Myanmar’s first open election in 25 years.

However, her international reputation was damaged when she defended army actions in 2017 against a minority group in Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslims. Thousands died and 700,000 fled to Bangladesh after surviving attacks by troops, backed by local Buddhist mobs, who burned their villages.

The army was accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice in 2019. Genocide means the deliberate destruction of an ethnic, cultural or political group. Ms Suu Kyi defended the army, saying the situation was misleading. Now she is no longer seen as a human rights defender. The Freedom of the City of Dublin was also taken away from her.

But why have protests broken out again in Myanmar? Well after Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD won another landslide election this year, their government was overthrown at the beginning of the month in a military coup, which is when power is taken from a government suddenly, violently, and illegally.

The military in Myanmar is independent from government, meaning they do not serve the NLD, and actually oppose them. They say that the recent election was rigged, despite no evidence of this. World leaders have condemned the coup.

Ms Suu Kyi was arrested again by the military, along with other leaders, for civil disobedience in opposition. NLD took 86% of the seats in the election so the majority of public want to see them in power.

 

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