There is no need to pretend that Myanmar’s short-lived democracy was perfect or full before the rapacious military snuffed it out. But for all its serious shortcomings and limitations, the civilian government was the choice of a majority of the country’s people and offered the only hope for the future. The people who have courageously taken to the streets to get the generals off their backs deserve the world’s wholehearted support.
Why the military chose to take back full power on Feb. 1, after ceding some of it to civilian authorities for a decade, is not hard to deduce. In elections on Nov. 8, the National League for Democracy, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won by a landslide. Though that did not threaten the military’s reserved seats in the Parliament or the key ministries it controls, it was more than the generals could stomach — especially as the senior general, Min Aung Hlaing, was due to retire soon and would have needed the assent of the civilian leaders to stay on.
So before the new Parliament was to hold its first session, the military declared that it “finds the process of the 2020 election unacceptable” — an unintentionally honest explanation — and staged a pre-dawn coup. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the civilian government who previously spent almost 15 years under house arrest, along with other leaders of the N.L.D. were arrested, and a State Administration Council headed by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing declared itself in charge.