Myanmar and Political Instability

Myanmar and Political Instability

Author: Satyam Singh
II Year | Netaji Subhas University, Jamshedpur


The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) defines Crimes against humanity as prohibited criminal acts “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.” Power struggle has hampered Myanmar’s peace and political stability since its independence in 1948.

Myanmar’s protracted and brutal intrastate disputes, colossal impact of the February 2021 coup d’état on the economy, and human rights are nothing short of stunning. Even though the incident has faded from the news, the situation has worsened. The country of 54 million people is returning to authoritarianism, with little to no chance for its citizens’ freedom. The political instability due to constant internal wars and coups has taken a toll on the country and its people.

Political Instability in Myanmar:

Myanmar (formerly Burma) developed a democracy based on the parliamentary system when it first gained independence. However, in 1962, the country was subjected to its first military dictatorship, led by Ne Win. He overthrew the civilian government and formed the Burma Socialist Programme Party, a military-controlled one-party state (BSPP). In the 1980s, a new phase of political struggle emerged in the form of massive public discontent, led by General Saw Maung [1], who seized control of the government, culminating in the BSPP’s demise in 1989.

Despite their flaws, the 2010 elections became the anticipated vehicle for a peaceful transition from authoritarian to quasi-civilian leadership. Even though the State League for Democracy [2] led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won a comparable victory in the 2015 elections, the military maintained significant control over key cabinet positions and national corporations.

Burma’s military coup on 1 February 2021 stunned the globe, as the country had been on the verge of a decade-long transition to democracy since 2011. This generated immense anger and outbursts, resulting in yet another series of deadly confrontations. This new age of struggle began in November 2020, when the National League for Democracy (NLD) defeated the military-backed party with an overwhelming majority.

The Tatmadaw claimed electoral fraud and announced a year-long state of emergency, with Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing as its head. They also detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other NLD leaders on suspiscion of crimes against humanity.

Humanitarian Crisis after Coup in Myanmar:

Myanmar’s wobbly but sturdy foundation was swept away by the political crisis, reversing over a decade of progress. Negotiating a settlement will be a challenging task, as both parties are reluctant to return to the status quo. Human rights are jeopardized because of a deadlocked battle.

Despite international condemnation of the coup, the Commander-in-Chief was given complete control of all three pillars of democracy. Myanmar’s people cried out for aid. They organized large non-violent protests and civil disobedience campaigns to combat the severity of their circumstances. The military slowly started to use force to subdue the resistance and secure control, culminating in a humanitarian crisis. The Tatmadaw also started misusing the legal system to stifle freedom of speech and expression. On 14 February 2021, they amended the Code of Criminal Procedure introducing the criminalization of protestors for exercising their basic rights. Tens of peaceful demonstrators, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders were detained because of these revisions.

They seized hospitals and about 60 educational and Buddhist institutions to cement their grip. Human rights violations have reportedly reached the level of egregious crimes against humanity, forthwith breaking international law’s core rules. Systematically targeted executions and mass arrests, along with torture and brutality have resulted in further deaths while in detention.

Continuing Political Mayhem:

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, over 800 individuals had been slain and over 6,000 people had been jailed as of June. There were 212 attacks against medical facilities, vehicles, and patients reported between February to May with 14 deaths. The Junta also cancelled the licenses of five media outlets in order to limit independent coverage of anti-coup protests.

People gradually formed self-defense groups to defend themselves against armed attacks, as well as organized crimes against the military. Antagonism resurged between military authorities and ethnic groups because of attacks against civilians during the armed conflict in Kachin, Chin, northern Shan, Kayah, and Kayin states violated long-standing cease-fires. The coup resulted in more forced migration across the country. Furthermore, since the commencement of the takeover, more than 200,000 people have been displaced in areas of armed conflict, according to reports.


People’s sense of security, identity, livelihood, and well-being has been shattered by political instability, violence, a weakening economy, and a growing humanitarian disaster, making the situation even worse.

Furthermore, the crisis has jeopardized a decade of progress in reducing poverty. The coup has turned into a human rights nightmare that shows no prospects of abating. Even with Western sanctions looming, there is no evidence that the military authorities are considering addressing these abuses.

As a result, the international accountability efforts backed by the Human Rights Council should be continued. It is time that the international community recognized that in order to achieve and maintain a certain degree of stability, they must gain knowledge on how to engage with the military unit. There is a need to bring current political mayhem to an end with diplomatic channels and dialogues.

On the other hand, humanitarian assistance must not stop yet. Instead, every capable nation should be urged to provide aid to Myanmar’s vulnerable populations both within the country and along its borders. Myanmar requires humanitarian assistance now more than ever, and this appeal for assistance should not be ignored.

[1] Mayanmar since 1988, Britanica, (May 12, 10:00 am)

[2] Military Coup in Burma Draws International Condemnation and Pressure, Cambridge University press,(May 8, 2022, 10 :00 pm) ,

Editor: Anukriti Prakash

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