Grace Manning ’21
This past weekend, thousands of people in Myanmar participated en masse in peaceful protests, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy party. The party won the recent democratic elections, but military armed forces refused to accept the results and staged a coup, forcing Suu Kyi into house arrest, accusing her of crimes against the country, and violently upholding new regulations for the public. Reading recent articles and news segments on this crisis, I could not help but see an uncanny resemblance to events of the past few months in the United States. Democracy, which for so long has been an incontestable good and a necessary characteristic of a successful country, is now being threatened.
The similarities between Myanmar’s coup and the Capitol attacks are too many to be ignored. The opposition in both cases not only dispute the election because of so-called fraud, they demand a reelection, despite there being no evidence to support these accusations. The elected leader is blamed for acting in such a way that provided them with an unfair advantage; in President Joe Biden’s case, using mail-in ballots and in Suu Kyi’s case, possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies that she was using to communicate. Biden’s party in the United States and Suu Kyi’s party both won comfortably, Biden finishing with some seven million more votes than Trump and Suu Kyi emerging victorious with 258 seats to the House of Representatives to the opposition leader’s 26. Still, both opposing parties reject the democracy that they fought to instate in their respective countries.
The response to the election and to the coup have startling comparability as well. Myanmar’s public have been taking to the streets to voice their concerns and to argue for the reinstatement of Suu Kyi, and they are met with violence. Rubber bullets, water cannons, and even live ammunition, not to mention brute force, have been used against protestors in Myanmar’s cities. Several people have died. At the Capitol, guns, blunt objects, and physical force were all used as well to breach the Capitol building and access government property with the intent to harm and destroy. Five people died. It seems that the pandemic has brought more than death from COVID-19: it has also created an atmosphere of fear, doubt, and distrust that encircles the world. Democracy that has served countries for years and that has been fought and sacrificed for, is now being shaken to its core and picked apart. Last year’s American elections and the recent Myanmar elections show that an opposition can decide not to trust the system and that this distrust can destroy it. They serve as examples of how fragile a democracy really is, a vulnerability that should be treated with the utmost respect.