By Madeline Billet
Since the coup d'état in February 2021, Myanmar has been faced with a widespread humanitarian crisis amongst its most vulnerable populations. Last year, the democratically elected ruling party of the nation was overthrown by the Myanmar military, creating a stratocracy that has resulted in almost 2,000 civilian deaths and nearly 10,000 arrests.
There are nearly an estimated one million Burmese people displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict. As of recently, the fighting has expanded outside of urban areas and into rural Myanmar. A study conducted by Reliefweb found that transportation is more limited to these regions of the country, the populations are easy targets of blockage from the military.
"After arrests are made, the prisoners are tortured and used as scare tactics to censor further opposition to the stratocracy"
The stratocracy has effected internally displaced rural populations by restricting access to life saving necessities, like food and first aid. While outside organizations have aided in bringing food to the rural Burmese population, there remains a large sanitary risk within the food and water being consumed.
The United Nations High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, informed the Human Rights Council that food scarcity within the displaced population is expected to increase in the coming months. She estimated that over 14.4 million individuals across Myanmar are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
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Additionally, the United Nations Development Program predicts that the combined restraints of the pandemic and the coup d'état will result in half of Myanmar’s population being pushed to poverty. Overall, Michelle Bachelet warns that the state of Myanmar is at risk of a complete collapse, with death, violence, and arrests widespread. After arrests are made, the prisoners are tortured and used as scare tactics to censor further opposition to the stratocracy.
Most of the displaced people of Myanmar are internal, while an estimated 15,000 people have left the country entirely. Over half a million people in the country have had to abandon their homes.
Additionally, the UN reported that the military dictatorship has purposely attacked nearly 300 healthcare facilities in the last year, making any remaining access to healthcare during the pandemic even lesser.
Ultimately, the motives for the coup d'état remain unclear, as more and more Burmese fall victim to the state each day. The military has loosely cited election fraud as their reasoning, despite the widespread conclusion of such actions not taking place. While risking arrest, violence, and even death, many Burmese continue to fight against the military in efforts known as the Spring Revolution. Mostly nonviolent, many demonstrators have adopted symbols such as the three finger salute to mobilize against the crisis.
The most recent prominent protest was coined the silent strike, as demonstrators stayed home, closed shops, and halted activities for a day as a nonviolent act of protest. Despite being nonviolent, the state threatened arrest for participants.