Myanmar riven by conflict one year after voters repudiated military power

A man receives his ballot on Nov. 8, 2020, at a polling station in Yangon’s Kawhmu Township. Photo: Coconuts
A man receives his ballot on Nov. 8, 2020, at a polling station in Yangon’s Kawhmu Township. Photo: Coconuts

Myanmar’s National League for Democracy this morning marked the one-year anniversary of the 2020 general election by reaffirming its intention to return power to the people.

The statement came one year after Myanmar voters returned the party to power in a landslide election overturned three months later by the military. 

Despite COVID-19 first breaking out in the country, 27 million people cast ballots at local voting stations, the overwhelming majority of which were for the party of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, which won 86% of seats in the assembly. On social media, people today marked the occasion by resharing images of their ink-stained pinkies from Election Day.

“If it is what the people choose, we have nothing to reject,” said Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the armed forces, upon casting his ballot in Naypyidaw.

Accredited election observers from a dozen groups, including the Asian Network for Free Elections, Carter Center, European Union, and Japanese government, deemed it credible, though the government was criticized for putting its thumb on the scale and censoring some opponents.

The military’s political proxy party, on the other hand, began complaining immediately after it proved wildly unpopular with voters and demanded a do-over overseen by the Tatmadaw. Cries of election fraud were raised, culminating in the military illegally seizing power from the people yet again, ending Myanmar’s brief attempt at democratic reform.

On the morning of Feb. 1, civilian political leaders including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were arrested as Ming Aung Hlaing seized power and installed himself as head of state. 

Since then, governments and people across the world have spoken out against the coup and urged Myanmar to recognize the results, and resistance fighters have taken up arms against the powerful military machine. 

The military says it will stage another election in 2023.

According to the Association of the Assistance Political Prisoners (Burma), 1,243 people have been killed by Myanmar security forces since February, and 9,846 jailed for opposing military rule.

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