Lauded by the world in 2015, when the military junta, which had ruled Myanmar for over five decades, gave up some of its powers, thus allowing for a modicum of democracy after national elections, the country has returned to the dark ages. Myanmar’s fragile experiment with democracy ended abruptly early on February 1 with yet another army coup. Unwilling to accept the people’s verdict, which gave Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) a clean sweep in the November 2020 parliamentary elections, the army detained Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, other top political leaders, opposition leaders and writers and activists. Army commander General Ming Aung Hlaing took charge, declaring a year-long emergency, and putting democracy on hold—all on charges of election fraud. A shocked international community called for the immediate restoration of democracy and the release of detained leaders. The UN Security Council will discuss the fast-developing situation in Myanmar.
For the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, it has been a rude awakening. Once admired as the symbol of resistance against repression, Suu Kyi spent over15 years (1989 to 2010) under house arrest, even refusing to visit her dying husband in Britain for fear the military may not allow her to return. After displaying such exemplary courage and personal sacrifice, the global icon for human rights activism had, in recent years, become a defender of the military’s savage repression of the Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine province. Her refusal to speak out—she even defended it in an international court at the Hague—has left her international reputation in tatters. By refusing to condemn the carnage, Aung San Suu Kyi lost much of her goodwill. Many wanted her to be stripped of the Nobel for her regressive stand against the hapless Rohingyas. Can Suu Kyi now salvage her reputation?