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An update on Myanmar

The news cycle can move quickly, but it’s important to remember that major crises continue to unfold. Myanmar has just entered its fourth consecutive month under military rule, and the protests and violence have not stopped. 

A brief recap 

How did Myanmar get here? The military seized control of Myanmar on February 1, just as a new session of Parliament was about to begin. The military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has now taken power. Since the coup, former democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained, along with other members of her party, and they are being held in unknown locations. In response to the coup, mass protests have erupted across the country and have been ongoing since February 1. 

What’s happening now? 

The demonstrations have not stopped, and it appears they will not any time soon. The city of Yangon is the epicentre of unrest with a heavy security presence. It was met with demonstrations and marching throughout the streets to avoid confrontation with police and soldiers. Over the weekend, there were media reports of bomb blasts at the demonstrations, however, no one has claimed responsibility for the blasts. 

Over 750 people, including children, have been reportedly killed by armed forces. There have been reports of the displacement of individuals, with some seeking refuge across borders as a result of the violence.   

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has called for an end to the violence in Myanmar immediately as stated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plan. The five-point plan looks to not only stop the violence, but to also encourage all member parties to practice utmost restraint while also pushing for constructive dialogue to ensure a peaceful solution. The UNSC has also called for appointing an envoy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address the crisis. 

The fear of an economic collapse

The UN has warned that violence, coupled with COVID-19, could see half of Myanmar living in poverty by next year. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administrator Achim Steiner said “Without functioning democratic institutions, Myanmar faces a tragic and avoidable backslide towards levels of poverty not seen in a generation”. 

These fears have been supported by a study that has shown harsh consequences of both the political crisis and pandemic. At the end of 2020, a report came out that 83 percent of Myanmar’s households reported their incomes had been, on average, slashed almost in half due to the pandemic. This saw an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line by 11 points. With the coup on February 1, there are projections of a further 12 percent point increase in poverty. It is also projected that women and children will be hit the hardest by poverty within the next year.

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