Paullette Ndungu
3 min readJan 11, 2023

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Myanmar Coup: Fragility of Democracy

The ongoing coup in Myanmar, also known as Burma, highlights the fragility of democracy and the ease with which it can be subverted by those in power.

On February 1, 2021, the milit

ary, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, seized control of the government, arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other top leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, and declared a state of emergency for one year.

This coup d'état is a shocking development for a country that had been on a path towards democracy for the past decade. Myanmar had been ruled by a military dictatorship for nearly 50 years, but in 2010, the military government transitioned to a nominally civilian government and began to relax some of its authoritarian control. This led to the opening of political space and the emergence of a vibrant civil society. In 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD won a decisive victory in a general election, and she became the country's de facto leader.

However, the military has always been a powerful force in Myanmar's politics, and it has never fully given up its grip on power. The military retains control of key portfolios such as defense, home affairs, and border affairs, and it has a guaranteed 25% of the seats in the country's parliament. This constitutional arrangement has led to a power-sharing arrangement that has been uneasy at best. This uneasy power sharing was further complicating by the recent general election that resulted in a big win for the NLD party which the military claims was fraudulent and therefore the reason for the coup.

The coup and subsequent actions by the military, including the arrests of civilian leaders, the shutting down of the internet, and the use of force against peaceful protestors, demonstrate the military's willingness to use any means necessary to maintain its hold on power. It also shows how easily democratic institutions and processes can be subverted by those in power who are unwilling to relinquish control. This is a tragic setback for the people of Myanmar, who have suffered under military dictatorship for decades and had only recently begun to taste the fruits of democracy.

The international community has been united in its condemnation of the coup, with many countries and organizations calling for the release of detained leaders and a return to democratic rule. The United Nations has called for the restoration of democratic institutions and respect for human rights, and the US and UK has announced sanctions against military leaders involved in the coup. However, the military has shown little inclination to listen to the international community, and it is unclear how effective these measures will be in pressuring the military to relinquish control.

The coup in Myanmar is a stark reminder of the fragility of democracy and the importance of continued vigilance in protecting it. It is also serves as a warning to other countries where democracy is still in the early stages, that a return to authoritarian rule is always a possibility if democratic institutions are not vigorously protected and nurtured. The international community should continue to support Myanmar's pro-democracy activists and to pressure the military to respect the will of the people and restore democracy to the country.

It is important to note that the situation is fluid and there might be new development that may not be mentioned in this essay, however the crux of the matter remains that a fragile democracy can be easily subverted by actors with authoritarian inclinations, in this case the military.

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