Karl Marx said that history repeats itself; first as tragedy, second as farce.
Farce may be too hard a word to describe what happened with Myanmar, but there is no denying that although the country finds itself in exactly the same place it did 22 years back, global reaction to it is visibly different.
In 1988, the people of Myanmar rose against the military administration demanding democracy and looked up to Aung San Suu Kyi, who was then placed under house arrest, where she would remain on and off for most of the next 20 years.
Fast forward to 2021. On February 1, the Myanmar military seized the power and mass protests have been taking place across the country since then. Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party are among hundreds of people detained. Many have so far been killed in protests.
On March 13 at least 6 people were killed by security forces in Myanmar as activists were commemorating the student martyr who was killed in 1988, which sparked an uprising against the military government.
The next day security forces killed at least 39 pro-democracy protesters in the commercial hub of Yangon and declared martial law in six areas after Chinese-funded factories were torched.
Although the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that this coup is a serious blow to democratic reforms, we still can't see any strong reactions from the international community.
India, Japan, other powerful ASEAN countries like Singapore, the countries that have a direct economic and business relation with Myanmar, are silent on the issue.
Myanmar's direct neighbours including Cambodia, Thailand and Philippines have commented that the coup is Myanmar's internal issue. So after two months, the issue is still floating in the air. The reaction has still been lukewarm so far. What actually changed in these 22 years?
1988 military coup
Despite being rich in resources, Myanmar went into a long period of economic stagnation following a 1962 military takeover. Students soon began to voice their resentment over the economy and the government's wide restrictions on personal freedom.
A disagreement in a tea shop between university students and a local influential politician eventually grew into a student-led movement calling for democracy in the summer of 1988. That tea house incident was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Weeks of organising crested with a nationwide general strike known as '8/8/88,' a date chosen for its numerological power. Thousands of people marched on the streets of Rangoon, the capital at the time, and in cities and towns around the country on 8 August 1988.
Estimates of the number of casualties surrounding the 8/8/88 demonstrations range from hundreds to 10,000 even though the military authorities put the figures at about 95 people killed and 240 wounded.
As the protests grew from a student-led movement into a nationwide uprising, people started to search for leadership. In late summer, Aung San Suu Kyi stepped onto the scene.
Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burmese independence leader Aung San, was in the country by coincidence. She had lived abroad most of her life and had returned to Burma only in March to take care of her ill mother. Student activists convinced her to join the movement.
It was on 24 August, 1988 that Aung San Suu Kyi made her first public speech. On 2 October, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) was formed and Suu Kyi was its general secretary.
On 20 July 1989 Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, where she would remain off and on for most of the next 20 years. Many other NLD members were rounded up. After 4 months, in November SLORC set an election for May 1990.
Finally, on 27 May 1990, a nationwide election was held and Suu Kyi's NLD party won, taking 60% of the popular vote and 80% of parliamentary seats.
The SLORC however ignored the election results and remained in power, under different names, for the next two decades.
This entire time, the international community supported Suu Kyi's NLD and in 1991 Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was then considered as the beacon of human rights and has been compared to Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Her dramatic story earned popularity and admiration far and wide. French director Luc Besson directed the feature biopic "The Lady", that brought Suu Kyi's epic tale to the silver screen in 2011, a year before she gained her release and began writing a new chapter in Myanmar's history. But that regime overcast a dark shadow over
Back in 1988, Myanmar didn't have strong economic relations globally. But now that the situation is intense, especially what the Su Kyi government has done with the Rohingya Community in the last 10 years, the international community has withdrawn its sympathy and the Su Kyi government has lost moral support.
We talked to Professor Imtiaz Ahmed about this. His take on this is, 'The Burmese people who are now protesting for democracy and demanding Su Kyi's freedom should recognize the fact that the democratic right is not supposed to be fragmented.
Where were they when the Rohingya population were brutally murdered and their democratic right was being violated?'
If the Burmese population wants support from the international community, they must clear their stand on democracy. We still don't know on which terms the military army and Suu Kyi stand on. So it's tough to say whether the Tatmadaw Kyi or the Myanmar army will withdraw the coup and the country will again be into a pseudo-democratic situation.
"I think that's what the country-people should look out for. Because if the history repeats, Myanmar would lose its trust in the global sphere," he said.
But Professor Imtiaz emphasises on the economic relations that are keeping the country survive. He says, 'That's what the Myanmar military is using now. There is a chance that this situation will elongate as the Suu Kyi government has lost its moral support now."