Myanmar’s Heroes and Villains of 2021
As Myanmar rang in 2021, while the COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge, it seemed there was much to look forward to as the government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) prepared for a historic second term in office. But those hopes for the future evaporated, along with the social, economic and democratic gains the country had made in the preceding five years, when the Myanmar military ousted the government at dawn on Feb. 1 and locked up much of the elected leadership including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, citing voter fraud in the 2020 election, which the NLD won in a landslide.
The vibrant, youth-led protest movement that arose to challenge the coup—for many of those protesting, the vote Min Aung Hlaing stole from them was the first they had ever cast—was soon met with a level of violence that has shocked the world. The brutality of the crackdown also sparked a civilian armed resistance movement which, though seriously outgunned, has kept the military regime from taking full control of the country 11 months after the senior general seized power to satisfy his long-thwarted personal political ambitions.