Five reasons for the current crisis, three signs of hope, and three prayers for what is needed next.
Recent news from Myanmar, beset by both civil conflict and the pandemic, is heart-breaking.
According to my contacts in Yangon, COVID-19 is rife. The confirmed death toll has risen sharply to hundreds per day. Few are vaccinated. Almost a third of public hospitals are or have been closed. Relatives, friends, and aid providers risk being shot or detained as they queue to try to get oxygen cylinders to the sick under curfew.
It seemed the Southeast Asian nation was inching toward a more democratic regime. In the November 2020 election, there was yet another landslide vote for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
But the military junta, which rules Myanmar, was unable to contemplate more power-sharing. Citing election fraud, they declared a year-long state of emergency on February 1. The patience of the normally peace-loving people snapped and fury was unleashed.
Ominously the military’s 77th light infantry division, which was at the forefront of brutally repelling the Rohingya Muslims back in 2017, was deployed to deal with the protesters in Yangon, Naypyidaw, and Mandalay. First with tear gas and rubber bullets, and then with live rounds and even air attacks, as shown by mobile phone footage, soldiers gunned down unarmed students, teachers, and even medical workers. More than 900 civilians have been killed by security forces and over 5,000 more detained or sentenced.
In the plaintive words of one Burmese youth on the streets of Yangon: “We were just learning to fly, and now they have broken our wings.” What chance is there that the fledgling bird of Myanmar will fly again?
Falling in love with Burma
As a British teenager, I met a beautiful Burmese girl on the school bus. She and her family self-exiled …