On February 1st, the Burmese military detained high-ranking officials of the National League for Democracy and the leader of the country, Aung San Suu Kyi. It was a coup, haunted by memories of past coups: 1962, when the military first seized power, and then 1988, when student-led protests against that government led to another coup that killed at least 6,000 people. In 2007, hundreds of thousands of monks protested in what became known as the Saffron Revolution, and the military cracked down again, arresting hundreds of people, some of whom still remain in prison. Despite that bloody history, today tens of thousands of people are returning to the streets as part of the so-called Civil Disobedience Movement. It feels like we’re all waiting to see what will happen next. Is this the end of Myanmar’s decade-long experiment with democracy, or could it be the catalyst for a new movement? To give us a better picture of where things stand, and how they’ve gotten to this point, we’re joined by Columbia University anthropologist Geoff Aung, who has spent years working in Burma and has written about the country for more than a decade.
Go beyond the episode:
- Read “The Lady and the Generals,” Aung’s 2016 analysis of the relationship between democratic reforms and economic justice; “Three Theses on the Crisis in Rakhine” on the Rohingyan genocide; and “Until the End of the World: Notes on a Coup”
- Organized labor has been a strong presence at the protests so far—read an interview with a labor organizer in a garment factory
- The story behind Naing Myanmar’s “Kabar Makyay Bu” (“We Won’t Be Satisfied Till the End of the World”), the unofficial anthem of the 8-8-88 uprising
- Many protest videos are circulating on Facebook, including the page Civil Disobedience Movement
- For ongoing coverage on the ground, check out The Irrawaddy
- For more context on ethnic conflict in Myanmar, particularly the Rohingya, check out our 2018 episode, “Burmese Daze”
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