Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has had a long history of military rule. After gaining its independence from Britain in 1948, the country was ruled by the armed forces from 1962 until 2011, when a newly-elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won elections and returned the country to civilian rule.
On February 1, 2021, following a general election which the NLD party won by a landslide, the military staged a coup against the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency.
In response, protesters have taken to the streets in the largest protests since the 2007 Saffron Revolution, when thousands of monks took part in demonstrations against the military. During these most recent protests, the military has imposed restrictions including curfews and limits on gatherings, while security forces have cracked down on protesters with water cannons, rubber bullets and live ammunition at times, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
In the aftermath, numerous Western nations have condemned the military coup and subsequent crackdown on protesters, and the U.S., U.K. and European Union have all responded with sanctions on military officials.
On April 20, 2021 the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 - Do No Travel advisory for Myanmar “due to COVID-19 as well as areas of civil unrest and armed conflict.”
To get a better understanding of how people on the ground in Myanmar are feeling about the current situation, we asked our colleagues at 7 Days Travel - the destination management company Kaanect uses when planning trips to Myanmar - for an update.
Dar Le, Director of 7 Days Travel:
It's been over a year now since the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt for our travel business. Earlier this year, we were feeling like we were coming into the light again, with hopes that our business would come alive as Myanmar was getting vaccine doses from India. And then suddenly, the military took over power from the elected government and we felt that our hopes, our futures, and our livelihoods were swept away overnight by the coup. We cannot accept the dictatorship and therefore we will fight until this coup fails.
Tin, Guide for 7 Days Travel:
The February 1, 2021 military coup has brought lots of suffering and hardship here in Myanmar. The brutal crackdowns by the military are unacceptable in our civilized world. Unfortunately, it’s still happening all over the country.
As a citizen of Myanmar, I am totally against this coup and crackdowns! Now the country's economy is plummeting in all aspects. Being a guide and working in the travel industry, I had already noticed that travel was the hardest hit and longest suffering business since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. It has now collapsed into “ground zero” and the future is uncertain.
Thousands have lost their jobs already. Nonetheless, it seems that the Myanmar Spring Revolution will keep on going. After the darkest midnight, there will be a time for dawn and daylight again. Until then, we have to stay strong together. We hope that you will spread the word and speak out about what is happening here on behalf of all Myanmar citizens.
Thandar, Guide for 7 Days Travel (Mandalay):
Since 1962, Myanmar was largely ruled by a military junta which crushed any opposition. More than 4,000 people were killed in the pro-democracy movement in 1988. Dozens more were killed in 2007 during the Saffron Revolution led by monks. Now in the present day, soldiers and police shoot, arrest, beat, torture and kill innocent people and children too.
Based on our experience, we know that the country will not develop under military dictatorship. So we have to fight until the end of the military coup.
Melvin, Guide for 7 Days Travel (Yangon):
It is so shameful that Burma becomes very notorious again because of a military coup. And while the latest coup just happened in 2021, the problems have been rooted in our history since 1962.
Being a very earnest tour guide, I am very interested to learn everything about our country from all sides, and politics here is a topic that requires one to dig deeply to better understand.
I don’t want to get too deeply into the many different reasons why this last coup has happened, but instead want to broaden your understanding of a typical concept in the mind of Burmese people. We say there are five kinds of enemies: Fire, water, wind, thieves, and the government.
Of course, while we typically accept the government, now we are dealing with this last enemy and all of the negative impacts that a bad government can bring to the civilians in the country. When the government is not playing fairly and operating for the good of the country’s progress, but instead bringing about upside-down conditions, our hearts bleed with indescribable pain.
In a sense we are speechless, as there are no words to express our bitterness at the killing and bullying of innocent civilians by any means necessary. But at the same time, I will not forget to pass along this message to the next generation so that they can learn from these mistakes. I strongly believe in the people’s power and that we can always improve our country in the future. It’s a task we cannot fail in.
I don’t like to be pressured and tortured by this military coup and I swear to myself that I will keep moving ahead until the end for this movement. I believe that we will ultimately succeed at the right time, but know that there will be many sacrifices made along the way. So I will never forget to salute all the fallen souls sadly but proudly.
And above all, we must win this movement!
7 Days Travel is the destination management company that Kaanect Travel uses when building guest itineraries in Myanmar.