Atrocity in the Garden of Eden: Myanmar

Something new and unexpected is happening in Myanmar. No, not the most recent coup d’état. Few countries have had so many coups as Myanmar. The surprise is that, a year later, the military are still not in control. That is what has never happened before. On February 1, 2021, when a new parliament was due to convene, General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s army, known as the Tatmadaw, decided to act on his dislike of the result of the elections held in November 2020 and took over the government. Again, no other country has a history of coups to rival Myanmar’s, or has endured such long periods of military misrule. But this time it is different. This time the coup has been launched but it has not landed. The military are in government and they occupy the buildings of the state — but they are not in power. The government does not function, not even in the incompetent and brutal fashion in which it usually operates under the military. Resistance continues, and it is everywhere. For a military that has been in power on and off since 1958, this suggests that something has gone wrong. Or more precisely, gone right.   No one explains Myanmar, from both personal experience and academic study, as well as Thant Myint-U, and in his book The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and the Crisis of Democracy in the 21st Century he records an apposite question asked by Frank Smithuis, a Dutch doctor who worked in Myanmar since 1994: “Why is there severe malnutrition in this Garden of Eden?” The doctor’s image is not accurate: Myanmar is hardly the Garden of Eden. For decades it has been one of the poorest countries in the world. And yet, even on a short visit, you

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