David Scott Mathieson

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Soldiers standing guard on a blockaded road leading to Myanmar’s Parliament, in Naypyidaw on Monday. One open question about the coup is how popular it will be within the ranks of the military. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Myanmar’s decade-long experiment in conditional democracy just ended in a textbook example of a coup — a coup that was a pre-emptive strike.

In the early hours of Monday, as the new national Parliament was scheduled to convene for its first session, the military, known as the Tatmadaw, announced that it was taking over, alleging fraud during the last general elections in November. It arrested Daw Aung San Suu Kyi — formally the state counselor, but really the country’s de facto leader — as well as other senior officials and a handful of prominent political and social figures.

The Tatmadaw invoked the Constitution (which it drafted back in 2008) to declare a state of emergency for a year; the already-powerful commander in chief, Senior Gen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya refugees gathered in Bangladesh on Aug. 28 on the second anniversary of the 2017 refugee crisis. Credit K.M. Asad/LightRocket, via Getty Images

Late last month, some 200,000 Rohingya living in refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh gathered to mark the anniversary of the brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military that drove more than 700,000 people to flee western Myanmar in August 2017. Citing security concerns, the Bangladeshi government promptly banned phone companies from providing mobile services to the refugees living in the camps of Cox’s Bazar — one million or so. The authorities have become increasingly worried about an uptick in crime in and around the camps, an increase in drug smuggling from Myanmar and the potential influence of foreign jihadists among the Rohingya.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rohingya from Myanmar at a refugee camp in Teknaf, Bangladesh, in December. Some 65,000 Muslims have since fled to Bangladesh, according to the United Nations. Credit Associated Press

Just days before the November 2015 general election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was asked how she would remedy the long-running repression of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, if her party came to power. She replied: “There’s a Burmese saying: You have to make big problems small and small problems disappear.”

Less than a year after the National League for Democracy’s sweeping victory, the big Rohingya problem had only gotten bigger. Violence broke out in the western state of Rakhine, where most Rohingya live, and Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was already being lambasted for seeming indifferent to their hardships, is now accused of silently standing by outright abuses.…  Seguir leyendo »

The impact of Myanmar's repressive policy toward Rohingya Muslims was made clear in recent weeks with scenes of desperate people crammed into boats, an escalation of a miserable maritime flight in which an estimated 90,000 people have fallen prey to smugglers and traffickers since early 2014. The United Nations estimates that around 1,000 people have died on the way.

The root cause is the long-term reprehensible treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar (also known as Burma) -- stateless, officially and socially reviled, with severe curbs on their rights to work, travel, get health care and education, and practice their religion.

Yet even as this anguishing exodus has gripped international attention, it has obscured a connected and equally troubling pattern of rising religious extremism in Myanmar.…  Seguir leyendo »