Min Aung Hlaing, who heads the junta that launched a coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in Myanmar last February has made it clear that he doesn’t plan on relinquishing power anytime soon.
On top of announcing himself prime minister, the general has said that emergency rule may extend until August 2023. Once the state of emergency ceases, Aung Hlaing claims that multi-party elections will be held, but it is supposedly not safe yet to do with the ‘terrorist’ NLD party still at large.
The military takeover was met with large protests across Myanmar which were violently put down. Hundreds have been killed as sustained lethal force has been used to crush opposition. The country’s military has swung in and out of power amidst a tumultuous and bloody political landscape for decades. Even whilst Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD were in government, spaces were reserved by law for military personnel, many of whom made up the state apparatus that held her prisoner in the years before she was elected head of government.
The country’s situation was, at best, precarious before the takeover. Economic fragility and a lack of infrastructure left the country of 50 million unprepared for the Coronavirus pandemic, but the worst of it only now looks to be descending.
The new government claims that 6% of the population has been vaccinated, an unpromising number that most observers consider a hugely generous fabrication. The official numbers say there have been 300,000 cases and 9,300 deaths, but the real number is likely to be much higher and some estimates foresee half of the population contracting the virus at some point in the next three months due to the emergence of the delta variant.
The country’s preparation for such an outbreak has been further debilitated by the widespread refusal by health workers, among others, to work with the government. This defiance has been met by brutal crackdowns that have seen many health workers imprisoned and injured meaning there are fewer hands to use the small number of resources available to fight the virus.
The international community is watching on intently in the hope that a solution is reached before things spiral out of control.
Mally Kakembo, is a member of the YCL’s Wales branch