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  • Foreign Policy

Myanmar’s Tumultuous Year

On Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military orchestrated a coup, arresting civilian government leaders in the early morning hours. The takeover abruptly halted the country’s long-awaited transition to democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Ten months later, the former state leader was sentenced to four years in prison for incitement, just the first of many charges she faces from behind bars.

A decade ago, it was easy to see Aung San Suu Kyi’s fate as symbolic of the country’s own, and Myanmar has undoubtedly suffered a year of loss. But the cracks in its experiment with democracy were beginning to show long before the coup. In 2017, the military faced accusations of genocide for its attacks against its Rohingya Muslim minority. And after the elections in November 2020, military officials issued claims of widespread electoral fraud. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won by a landslide.

Today, Myanmar’s political future appears bleak—certainly nothing like what many observers envisioned 10 years ago when then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar. Under Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military has resumed the position of power it held for decades, and outsiders, including China, are betting on it consolidating its control. It has cracked down on a robust anti-coup protest movement with extreme violence. This month, the United States imposed human rights-related sanctions on people and entities with ties to the military regime.

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