Monday (February 22nd): Myanmar protests take deadly turn

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing 

Name? Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing 

Westphalian identity? Burmese

Age? 19

Why is she in the news? Mya is the first (and hopefully last) martyr in the nationwide protests in Myanmar. Since her death, her image has become one of the defining motifs of the protest movement.

Why do we care? Because Myanmar is the latest in a series of protests in Southeast Asian countries. First Hong Kong, then Thailand, and now Myanmar. Could the region potentially experience a wave of uprisings..? In the middle of a pandemic?

Why should you care? Aside from the fact that she died just days before her 20th birthday, you should care about Mya’s death because of what it means for the pro-democracy protests. In short, her death emphasizes that the military government and security forces will continue to crush these protests as they have in the past, with any means necessary. On our how much you should care scale, 8/10.

Who else cares? Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. While many other nations have condemned the military coup in Myanmar and are ‘in discussion’ as to how to respond (looking at you EU), Retno is really putting in the work for ASEAN to seek a better response in stabilizing the situation and adhering to the good governance principles of the ASEAN charter. More than anything, Retno’s efforts underline Indonesia’s regional role as a peacekeeper and communicator. 

Any further comments? Unfortunately for both Mya and Retno, there is little more that ASEAN can do with regards to Myanmar due to another of its founding principles: nonintervention. Not to mention the fact that reactions were not unanimous within the Southeast Asian organization as Singapore and Indonesia have taken a tough stance against the coup while the Philippines, Cambodia and Thailand have labelled the coup an “internal affair.” Understandable for Thailand as it faces similar civil disobedience that is now receiving solidarity from Myanmar where protestors have also adopted the three-finger salute.

Sarah McFadden

Team Member of Research & Analysis