Myanmar’s Military Coup Poses Hardships for Indigenous Peoples

Dev Kumar Sunuwar

Republished from Cultural Survival, March 4, 2021,

In the early hours of February 1, 2021, as Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) was preparing for the first session of the newly elected parliament since the country’s November 8, 2020 election, its military forces seized control of the country. Myanmar’s military conducted a house raid and arrested several elected leaders, cabinet ministers, the chief ministers of several regions, opposition politicians, activists including the country’s president, Win Myint, and state counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military coup mainly resulted from accusations of election fraud during the November 2020 election, in which the National League for Democracy, the country’s leading civilian party, won 83 percent of the body’s available seats. After the coup, the Myanmar military declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews putting restrictions on public gatherings. The internet, telephone services, and television broadcasts were suspended, blocking access to media and communications. International flights were suspended.

In the month since the coup, mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar opposing the military move. Some of the protests have turned deadly. The media reports reveal that close to 1,000 people had been detained, including high profile leaders of the civilian government. Many are kept under house arrest with no outside contact and in most cases, their whereabouts are unknown. There are also reports that dozens of protestors have died while many human rights defenders have been threatened and went into hiding.

“I felt as if the whole world was collapsing, everything was chaotic and I felt hopelessness,” says Khun Khit San, a young Indigenous leader, sharing an experience about February 1, the first day of the military coup. “Until the internet, telephone, and other communication means were resumed, everything was finished. The president, MPs, and all high ranking officials were detained by the military.”

* Dev Kumar Sunuwar is on the staff of Cultural Survival.


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