(P12AB) Burma’s First Democratic Term: Politics and Society in Myanmar, 2021


Double Panel

Part 1

Session 1
Wed 09:00-10:30 K10 | 3.39

Part 2

Session 2
Wed 11:00-12:30 K10 | 3.39



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On February 1st 2021 the world watched an aerobics instructor in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, as behind her could be seen tanks rolling up to blockade the capital’s airport-width roads. What happened next was, and continues to be, no less than a complete undoing of decades of transformation, liberalisation, and (partial) democratisation. Myanmar’s Tatmadaw initiated a state of emergency that has placed them back in charge. The Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) has arisen, pitted against the military. Yangon and Mandalay have turned into warzones. National ceasefires have broken down. City protestors are moving to the countryside in order to get guerrilla training. Protests in capitals around the world and within the UN have flared, including some of Myanmar’s own ambassadors disowning the Tatmadaw and later facing assassination attempts. The National League for Democracy (NLD has been disbanded and the country’s Election Commission. Aung San Suu Kyi, the once iconic leader, has been held under arrest on dubious charges. A parallel government of ousted lawmakers has constituted itself in the form of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) with claims to represent true authority in Myanmar, later forming their own military force, the People Defense Force. It is safe to say that Myanmar’s future does not look bright; that the country is at best returning to previous authoritarian rule but possibly at worse, breaking down into civil war.

This panel seeks to investigate not the 2021 coup d’etat but the period prior that the coup has now bookended. There are two points to consider. First, is that the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi need to be critically assessed for their politics, policies, and reforms. We are long past the time of idealism and symbolism with democracy pitted against authoritarianism. As politicians having been in power, Myanmar’s democrats should be evaluated for their actions to help the people of Myanmar just like any other government. Relatedly, is the need to hold outside narrative creators to account as well, as Myanmar is subjected to endless amounts of misrepresentations and self-deceptions. Second, is the need to assess structurally. Meaning, to dig deep into the many many fundamental issues that Myanmar faces outside of simple elections and voting. Questions of legitimacy and meaning, institutions, structures of power, all manner of contestations are open to debate in Myanmar. These also need to be assessed in this panels aim of critiquing Myanmar’s failed first period of democracy.