While the National League for Democracy’s election victory five years ago created an international buzz around Myanmar, its latest triumph has been met with more cynicism. Back in 2015, the party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide, ostensibly ending decades of military-led rule. In 2020, it appears the NLD have stormed the ballots, winning 346 seats in Myanmar’s bicameral legislature, but this time against the backdrop of its controversial first term in power.
Five years later, State Counsellor Suu Kyi’s star has fallen. With it, the excitement surrounding the Southeast Asian nation has dissipated. She is accused of standing idle while Myanmar’s armed forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, have committed atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine State and waged wars against an array of marginalised ethnic groups. Her efforts to revive peace talks with minorities have fallen flat, freedom of speech has deteriorated, and the economic growth and development promised in 2015 has failed to materialise.
Evolution is more than a one-term project
Where Time magazine predicted the “dawning of a New Democratic Era” in Myanmar five years ago, now the international community sighs at the country’s lack of progress toward liberal democratic norms. As western media continue to highlight the extensive human rights abuses in the country, the optics of any ties with Myanmar have become increasingly treacherous for governments and businesses alike. The European Union is mulling trade sanctions for the Tatmadaw’s belligerence. The United States’ general disinterest under outgoing US President Donald Trump has only shifted the country further into the arms of China.