September 16, 2019
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Situation in Myanmar

Security Council

Topic: Situation in Myanmar

The political history of modern-day Myanmar is one highlighted by turmoil and strife. After being granted independence from British rule in 1948, the government was in a state of relative stability until a military coup in 1962 installed a socialist government, whose reign was marked by regular civil protests that were dealt with in a swift and forceful manner. The most notable of these protests, the 8888 Uprising, led to an open democratic election in 1990 in which the National League for Democracy (NLD) received an overwhelming majority of the seats contested. However, the military junta did not recognize the election results, placing prominent NLD leaders under house arrest, and this resulted in another 25 years of military rule. When elections were held in 2010, for the first time in 20 years, the NLD refused to participate, and the legitimacy of the subsequent results was debated by much of the international community. Free and fair elections were held in 2015, which as in 1990 resulted in an NLD victory. Unlike the 1990 elections, these results were not contested by the active ruling coalition.

The 2020 elections did not proceed as smoothly. The NLD increased the number of seats they held, but the military did not accept the results, and in February 2021 began arresting ruling members of the NLD, as well as other prominent political and cultural figures who expressed support for the NLD. The most prominent of those arrested was Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, founder of the party, and daughter of Aung San, generally acknowledged as the “Father” of modern Myanmar following its independence from the United Kingdom. The response from the international community was swift, though not uniform. Within days of the coup, the United Nations Security Council put forth a resolution condemning the actions of the military junta and calling for the release of the political detainees, but the resolution was not passed.

In the months since the coup, unrest has continued to grow. Almost 1 million people have been displaced within Myanmar, and the humanitarian crisis is fueling further unrest throughout the country. There is not currently a clear path towards resolving the crisis. While elections are set for 2023, it is not yet clear what the rules of those elections will be, including the electoral system, potential oversight, and permitted participants. Many of the NLD’s leaders remain jailed, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison on a variety of politically-motivated charges, including corruption. It is likely that, barring an amnesty for her and her colleagues, many of the NLD’s supporters will refuse to recognize the 2023 elections as legitimate, which would not bode well for a peaceful resolution to this crisis. It is up to the Security Council to try and formulate a path through the political quagmire in Myanmar, while simultaneously finding ways to alleviate the sufferings of the many thousands of displaced persons in the country.

Further Reading:

UNSC Resolution 2669:
https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N22/767/33/PDF/N2276733.pdf?OpenElement

UNSC Press Release on Resolution 2669:
https://press.un.org/en/2022/sc15159.doc.htm

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