On February 1st before the newly elected parliament was about to start a session in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar something terrible happened. A military coup headed by an influential military commander-in-chief named “Min Aung Hlaing” took control of the government by force and declared a one-year state of emergency. This event comes after Nobel peace prize winner “Aung San Suu Kyi” led her political party to a victory in the contested election of 2015. The country of Myanmar(also known as Burma) has been plagued by military rule from the period of 1962 to 2011. This event marks the end of the rise of democratic government in Myanmar for the foreseeable future.
The deposing of Aung San Suu Kyi has huge consequences if this event does not get reversed. Aung San Suu Kyi became famous in the international community during the 90s for organizing events to promote democratic reforms in Myanmar. She was eventually put in detention by the military government for over 9 years to suppress her activism. Eventually the government became more democratic during the early 2010s which eventually led to the open elections in 2015. Aung San Suu Kyi’s control of the government gave hope to a democratically run Myanmar for the people; However, Aung San Suu Kyi did have some problems as head of state.
Aung San Suu Kyi landed in hot water with the international community following the mistreatment of the “Rohingya” minority group during her reign of power. Minority groups members were targeted by the government with extra restrictions such as no citizenship. The army might have killed thousands of Rohingya people in an attempt to purge the unwanted people. Finally, the actions taken by the government forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to flee to neighboring countries.
Even with a large spot on her record, Aung San Suu Kyi’s removal from power means that the country could slip into military junta style control once again. The international reactions to this event have been mixed between different regions. China quickly blocked a UN security council condemnation of the event. Thailand and Cambodia have claimed the incident is an internal issue and should not be international. United Kingdom commonwealth countries have condemned the takeover and Biden has threatened to put sanctions on Myanmar.
Myanmar’s unfortunate takeover is a microcosm of the change happening in Asia at the current moment. China’s authoritarian government is dominating the entire South China Sea and regimes friendly to the Chinese president can be guaranteed military and monetary support. Myanmar is the next battleground between a weak democratic country and the rising tide of the People’s Republic of China. The future of Asia could be shaped by how this incident is resolved for better or for worse.
Biden’s response to this event is the most important thing that could change the outcome of the current disaster. A threat of US military assets willing to use the arsenal of freedom could make the new military government play their cards in a more democratic way or reverse their decision partially. This international kerfuffle will most likely be defined by a strong-arm diplomatic battle between the United States and China. If Biden wins this conflict, the diplomatic momentum might be key in future South East Asian scuffles between the two superpowers.
A future where China wins this conflict could be the start to an authoritarian wave across the entirety of Asia. This wave of authoritarianism could easily lead to proxy wars and shouting matches in the United Nations. A future of US domination in Myanmar could be the start of US hegemony containing the rise of China. This timeline would most likely feature multiple US occupations and economic warfare between US and China friendly nations.
Regardless of how this event resolves, the future of Asia in the next four years will have plenty more proxy conflicts to come.