Does Myanmar Have a Democratic Future?
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Does Myanmar Have a Democratic Future?
3rd March 2021 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
On the 1st of February 2021, newly re-elected State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi was forcefully detained by a military junta, alongside other members of her National League of Democracy (NLD) party. This coup took place hours before her confirmation in Parliament. Leader of the Military, Min Aung Hlaing, claimed that the NLD were “neglecting to ensure free, fair and transparent elections,” though failed to give supporting evidence for the claims, and deceitfully promised to represent a “true and disciplined democracy.” Hiding behind these self-righteous statements, the military (known locally as the Tatmadaw) have sought to re-establish their autocratic power: arresting opposition, banning social media, instigating nation-wide internet blackouts and announcing a year-long state of emergency.
This thinly veiled power-grab has galvanised Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement: Small scale marches, symbolic gestures and strikes have erupted across the country, progressing into mass protests: hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, combined with a nation-wide closure of businesses, in an attempt to force the Tatmadaw into reinstating liberal, democratic principles.
With tensions between the military and protestors high, we explore the situation in Myanmar and the international community’s response. The Henry Jackson Society will ask how has the situation changed and how will it develop in the weeks and months to come?
Wai Hnin Pwint Thon was born in Rangoon, Burma. She is a Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. For the past ten years, she has been actively involved in campaigning for human rights, democracy and development in Burma. She works with activists and organisations inside Burma for the release of political prisoners and repealing of repressive laws. Her jobs include primary and secondary research, regular contact with family members of prisoners, public speaking, media interviews, UK Parliamentary and international advocacy, and drafting and sending submissions to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Wai Hnin is also a daughter of a prominent political activist and a former political prisoner, Mya Aye. When Wai Hnin was five months old, her father was arrested, and sentenced to prison for his political activities. Her first memory of him was visiting him in jail. Her, father is currently being detained by the military in Burma. He was arrested on 1st February 2021, and the family still do not know his whereabouts or condition. This is his third arrest.
Benedict Rogers is the author of Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads in addition to other books on politics and human rights in the country. Ben was the East Asia Team Leader at the international human rights organisation CSW, where he specialised in Myanmar, as well as Indonesia, North Korea and China. Recently he cofounded Hong Kong Watch and currently serves as the organisations Chief Executive. He is also the co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), an advisor to the World Uyghur Congress, Senior Analyst for East Asia at CSW, a trustee of several other charities. He has testified in hearings in the British Parliament, European Parliament, Japanese Parliament and United States Congress and is a regular speaker around the world. Between 1997 and 2002, he lived and worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, and in 2003 he lived and worked in Washington, DC.
Gray Sergeant is a Research Fellow in the Asia Studies Centre. He studied International Relations and History at the London School of Economics and went on to complete a Master’s in Chinese Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Most recently, he completed a one year Mandarin language programme at National Taiwan University. Prior to joining HJS, Gray held various positions including campaign roles for the Labour Party in, as well as working in the UK Parliament. In addition, he spent several years in human right advocacy, with a specific focus on Tibet. In 2017 he co-founded Hong Kong Watch, which monitors freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong, and is currently the organisation’s Chair.
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