In February 2021, Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian-led government and the country is now classified by the GSoDI as an authoritarian regime. The coup ended a decade of democratization that began in 2011, following the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. During this period, the military shared power with elected leaders but retained de facto control of the government, which was guaranteed through the 2008 Constitution. During this decade, some improvements were seen in Representative Government, Fundamental Rights, Checks on Government and Impartial Administration. Given the country’s history of repressive military rule, this period was seen as a significant milestone in the country’s history.
The 2021 coup, however, suddenly and rapidly reversed the recent achievements and led to a surge in violence and human rights violations, with the military carrying out mass killings, torture, sexual violence, and arbitrary arrests. The coup and surge of COVID-19 cases in 2021 forced the country into an economic crisis, with an estimated 25 million people (almost half the population) living in poverty by the end of 2021. According to the latest GSoDI data (2021), Myanmar’s regime type has shifted from Democracy to Authoritarian, with significant declines in all attributes.
In response to the coup, a coalition of pro-democracy actors formeda civil disobedience movement (CDM) and interim democratic governance institutions which have preventedthe military from consolidating power. The Committee Representing the Union Parliament (CRPH) and the National Unity Government (NUG)formed under the Federal Democracy Charter (FDC), are accountable to the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), a platform of democratic stakeholders including Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs), political parties and civil society, among others. Together they strive to establish a federal democracy union. While providing services to the population and collecting revenues, the interim institutions have led a broad consultative process and established joint coordination committees (JCCs). The consultationsculminated in a People’s Assembly in January 2022 to define and implement a political roadmap for democratic reform and prepare a Transitional Constitution through the NUCC as stipulated in the FDC. The interim institutions seek official recognition as Myanmar’s legitimate government and are represented at the United Nations.
Myanmar is an ethnically diverse country, made up of the majority ethnic Bamar group (approximately 66 percent of the population) and several ethnic minority nationalities (30-40 percent of the population). Where the Bamar have traditionally dominated the central government, ethnic minorities have longstanding, unresolved grievances around the right to self-governance, limited resource sharing, social discrimination, and suppression of minority languages and cultures. This has led to an open armed conflict between several EAOs struggling for more autonomy and self-determination, and the military, whose leaders have openly instrumentalized Bamar ethno-nationalism, spanning over six decades. Among the most oppressed are the Rohingya, who were stripped of their citizenship, and subject to ethnic cleansing, with the United Nations concluding that there are grounds for warrants of criminal investigation and prosecution against military generals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes since 2011. Despite international calls for investigation, these crimes remain unaddressed.
Considering the military’s ongoing armed aggression, the resolution of conflict is of utmost importance. The number of defectors is on the rise, contributing to disintegration within the military, and the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), NUG and local administrators are expanding their areas of control. Furthermore, the interim institutions are prioritizing human rights, equality, self-determination, and protection of minority rights, pledging to address the Rohingya’s right to citizenship and crimes committed in Myanmar through the International Criminal Court. There are thus reasons to believe that the country could regain a positive trajectory. In the meantime, the military’s systematic and widespread human rights violations continue unabated.
A junta-controlled court in Myanmar concluded the final outstanding show trial of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 29 December, sentencing her to seven years in prison on corruption charges. Aung San Suu Kyi was already serving a 26-year sentence on numerous other charges. The trials were universally condemned as politically motivated and illegitimate outside the military junta.
The military junta carried out 14 unannounced and closed-door executions of imprisoned pro-democracy leaders and civilians between late July and mid-August. Capital punishment was last practiced in the country in 1987.