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Myanmar democracy is entering a new era as Suu Kyi is sidelined by the military.

Myanmar’s military rulers have effectively exiled the country’s iconic democracy leader Aung San Suu from electoral politics by sentencing her to prison. Nonetheless, this does not imply that the Southeast Asian country has returned to square one in its sporadic efforts to move toward democracy.

As a result, a younger generation that has experienced some degree of freedom as the military’s grip on politics and the has been well-positioned to carry on the struggle in the future.

In a de facto coup that took place on February 1, Suu Kyi’s elected government was forced from , causing the country to descend into chaos. However, reversing the gains made during a decade of liberalization has proven more difficult.

People took to the streets in large numbers almost immediately and have continued to demonstrate on a sporadic basis ever since. As the military’s crackdown on demonstrations became increasingly violent, protesters took to arming themselves for their own protection.

Within days, a coalition of the old and new guards, including elected lawmakers who had been barred from taking their seats as a result of the takeover, announced the formation of a shadow administration that declared itself to be the only legitimate government in the country. In order to create a diverse group, it was carefully assembled to include representatives from ethnic minorities as well as one openly gay member, which was unusual in socially conservative Myanmar.

It has been at the forefront of the opposition — rather than Suu Kyi, who was arrested during the takeover — and has garnered significant support from the general public.

Despite the fact that no foreign government has recognized the so-called National Unity Government, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan had a virtual with two representatives of the government. In addition, it has achieved a kind of standoff at the United , which has delayed action on a request by Myanmar’s military government for a representative to take up a seat on the Security Council. He has declared his allegiance to the unity government, which is currently in power in the country.

As Priscilla Clapp, former United States ambassador to Myanmar from 1999 to 2002, put it, “The coup and its aftermath are not so much proof that democratization has actually taken of the younger generation in Myanmar as they are proof that democratization has actually taken hold of the younger generation in Myanmar.” The coup may ultimately prove to be the end of Myanmar’s older generation of leadership, according to the Associated Press.

With military rule still in place, the pro-democracy movement must now contend with the challenges of maintaining international pressure on the country to restore an elected civilian government and consolidating support from ethnic groups that have long opposed the government.

Aung San Suu Kyi, whose pro-democracy efforts earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, and her allies have played pivotal roles in the past, even when they were ignored or imprisoned by the military regime. On Monday, the 76-year-old was found guilty of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions, and he was sentenced to four years in prison, which was almost immediately reduced to two after an appeal. She is also facing additional charges that could result in her being imprisoned for the rest of her life.

However, the younger generation may be better suited to take up the mantle in the first place.

Younger people in Myanmar, particularly those living in urban areas, have spent the majority of their without having to worry about being imprisoned for expressing their political views, in contrast to their elders. They have grown up with to mobile phones and social media sites such as Facebook, and they believe that the country is toward greater, not less, democracy.

They also appear to be more receptive to reaching out to Myanmar’s ethnic minority populations. Not only did the unity government include representatives from ethnic minorities in its Cabinet, but it also sought to form alliances with the powerful ethnic militias, which are fighting for autonomy and rights over their resource-rich lands and territories.

During the same time that they are fighting against the military takeover, they are debating among themselves about the contours of a more democratic and ethnically diverse political system, according to Clapp, who is also a senior adviser to the US Institute of Peace and the Asia Society. According to the author, “This did not happen with earlier rebellions against military rule before the people had experience with democratic institutions that provided the public with a voice.”

Suu Kyi’s international reputation has been severely damaged as a result of her appearing to condone, and at times even defending, military abuses against the Muslim Rohingya minority while her government was in power. The allegations that troops killed Rohingya civilians, torched houses, and raped women are unfounded, according to her.

Additionally, the unity government has been criticized for appearing to ignore the long-persecuted Rohingya, and it is unclear how the government’s uneasy alliance with ethnic groups will out in the future.

However, Aung San Suu Kyi’s treatment of the Rohingya is only one of several that have complicated her legacy.

Suu Kyi was a symbol of resistance during her 15 years under house arrest, and she agreed to work alongside the generals after she was released from her house detention. As a result, Myanmar’s fledgling democracy is in a state of limbo, with the military maintaining control over key ministries and reserving a large proportion of the country’s parliamentary seats.

Some of Suu Kyi’s admirers in the West were disappointed that her government used British colonial-era security laws to prosecute dissidents and critical journalists while she was in power, as part of “an ongoing pattern of silencing dissent,” according to Jane Ferguson, a lecturer at the Australian National University. “This is a travesty of justice,” she said.

As part of its claim that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election, which saw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy win by an overwhelming margin, the military took control of the country. It claimed that this justified the takeover under a constitution that allows it to seize power in an emergency — despite the fact that independent election observers found no significant irregularities in the election. Critics also claim that the military’s takeover circumvented the legal process for declaring the type of emergency that allows the army to intervene in the country.

Since then, security forces have used lethal force to disperse nonviolent demonstrations across the country, killing approximately 1,300 civilians, according to a tally compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Despite the dangers, the verdict against Suu Kyi, who continues to enjoy widespread support, sparked even more fervent demonstrations. Demonstrators in the Myanmar city of Mandalay on Monday chanted slogans and sang songs that had gained popularity during pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988.

Local residents in Yangon are once again banging pots and pans late at night in protest, according to Jason Tower, Myanmar country director for the United States Institute of Peace. According to the junta, “these types of actions by the government are also a major driver and motivator for local people to join the people’s defense forces.”

In addition to being supported by the opposition unity government, which hopes to transform them into a federal army one day, those forces, which began as a way to protect neighborhoods and villages from the depredations of government troops, are also being supported by the opposition unity government.

As a result of these efforts, the military will continue to attempt to “terrorize the public into obedience,” according to Christina Fink, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University. In the past, they have been successful, but this time the opposition is more widespread and manifests itself in a variety of ways, making it much more difficult for the regime to achieve its goal.

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