June 12, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Myanmar’s Coup, Explained’

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6. What is your reaction to the article? Can you draw any parallels between the coup in Myanmar and recent events in other places such as Mali, Thailand or Brazil where coups or the threat of military intervention are present? Can you make any connections between what is happening in Myanmar and what happened on Jan. 6 in the United States, when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the Capitol? How are the issues and dynamics in these places the same, similar or different? What do these events tell us about the strength and fragility of democracy around the world?

Option 1: Analyze and interpret a photo.

Take some time to look at the images and explainer text beneath each in the article “Myanmar’s Coup in Pictures.

Taken together, what do these images tell you about the coup in Myanmar and its impact on the country?

Choose one of the images that you find memorable, surprising or affecting and reflect in writing on what you see. You can write about anything that strikes you as important, or you might choose one or more of the prompts below:

  • Why did you choose this image? What about it caught your attention or intrigued you?

  • What do you think is going on in this photo? What do you see that makes you say that? What is your reaction to what you see?

  • How is seeing the coup and its aftermath from various perspectives different from learning facts about it, as you did in the featured article? How does this photograph paint a fuller picture of events?

  • What connections can you find between the image and your own life? How does this help you better understand what people might be experiencing in Myanmar?

Option 2: Examine the life and lessons of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In “How a Human Rights Angel Lost Her Halo,” Hannah Beech writes:

When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi emerged from years of house arrest a decade ago, having never used a smartphone or Facebook, she held court in the office of her banned political party, the smell of damp emanating from the human rights reports piled on the floor.

Armed with nothing more than a collection of international awards, she wore fresh flowers in her hair, sat with impeccable posture and promised the world two things: she would ensure that Myanmar’s political prisoners would go free and she would end the ethnic strife that has kept the country’s borderlands at war for seven decades.

But the two pledges have gone unfulfilled, and the world’s most shimmering icon of democracy has lost her luster. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has turned into an apologist for the very generals who once locked her up, downplaying their murderous campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Her strongest critics accuse her, as a member of the Bamar ethnic majority, of racism and an unwillingness to fight for the human rights of all people in Myanmar.

Read the entire article, then consider the following questions as you evaluate and assess the life and legacy Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi: What is your reaction to her rise and fall from celebrated champion of human rights to the defender of the military’s genocidal campaign against the Rohingya? Should we lament her arrest? Is she a victim of the military? Ms. Beech writes that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel, “once represented the triumph of democracy over dictatorship.” How should we think of her now? What lessons can we learn from her life about leadership and power?

Option 3: Learn more about the plight of the Rohingya.

While the fate of the citizens of Myanmar remains unknown, no population is more at peril than the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in the country’s Rakhine State, facing severe repression and violence, with no freedom of movement or other basic rights.

In 2017, the military stepped up its brutal campaign against the Rohingya, compelling 750,000 members of the Muslim ethnic minority to flee to neighboring Bangladesh in one of the largest global outpourings of refugees in a generation. United Nations officials have said the mass burnings of Rohingya villages, complete with systematic executions and rape, were carried out with genocidal intent.

To learn more about the Rohingya, watch this Times video from 2017, “Inside a Rohingya Refugee Camp.” The three-minute film reports on a sprawling makeshift city that houses hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, driven from their homes by Myanmar’s military. (Note to teachers: The film includes some graphic images and disturbing themes. Please watch it in advance to make sure it is appropriate for your students.)

Then respond to the following questions:

  • What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

  • What should the international community do to help the Rohingya — inside Myanmar and in nearby refugee camps? What questions do you still have about the Rohingya?

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