Myanmar, a country located in Southeast Asia, is going through a major political crisis. The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, s claimed a voting fraud and immediately declared a year- long state of emergency. Accordingly, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing were detained, and the military announced replacements for a number of ministers. Feeling that the hard-fought battle for democracy had been lost, the people of Myanmar took to the streets. Unlike the citizens who went on with a non- violent protest, the military started using force and it soon turned into a bloodshed.
Jang Jun-young, a Research Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, iexplained the fundamental reason the coup could occur in the 21st century. In the era of regime change, the political and economic vested rights of the military weakened. So according to Professor Jang, the coup could be a result of the military’s anxiety of being excluded from politics.
The professor compared Korea’s history of military dictatorship with Myanmar’s. In 1961, Park Chung-hee led a military coup that overthrew the Second Republic and became president in 1963. At the time, the Constitution was amended to allow him to prolong his term in the office. This seems similar to what is currently happening in Myanmar on the outside, but there are many underlying differences.
“Back when Park Chung-hee dictated for over 15 years, there was industrialization in every part of the society,” he said. “This led to a higher level of education and heightened national consciousness. However, during the years the Myanmar military took control over the country, there was neither industrialization nor enhancement in national consciousness.”
Moreover, Jang added that the citizens should keep protesting in the way of civil disobedience, by abandoning one’s duties as a student, teacher, etc. Although the most direct way to bring about change is to use violence, the Myanmar people are not accustomed to such methods. Therefore, he emphasized that banks, industrial sites and medical facilities should go on a strike. Most importantly, as we are faced with a global pandemic, the military will not be able to govern properly if doctors refuse to work. By leading to a national crisis, the military might eventually end up giving up their power.
As the situation is worsening with an increasing number of people dying and being injured during the protests, the Myanmar people are pleading with international organizations toe help the citizens. However, Professor Jang believes such intervention is practically impossible.
“As we can see from previous cases in the Middle Eastern countries, occupying the country by forming a multinational force is the fastest way to end this coup,” he said. “Unfortunately, China is behind Myanmar and the use of violence is opposed by the ASEAN countries. This only leaves the western countries to take action, but the economic sanction previously imposed on Myanmar by these countries from 1990 to 2016 turned out to be ineffective.”
The Myanmar students in Korea, especially students of the Korean Language Students Association from Myanmar’s Mandalay and Yangon University, are continuing to make their voices heard in front of the Seoul United Nations Human Rights Office. When asked what students can do to help those in Myanmar, the professor said it was to spread the issue globally.
“The civil disobedience campaign also started from social media,” he noted. “Because it’s almost been a month since the start of the protest, the people in Myanmar are likely to become exhausted. What is important for us is to keep encouraging them to continue fighting through social media.”