Myanmar’s latest coup: what is to be done?

Democracy Military operations World politics Diplomacy Myanmar

The international community has never been able to agree on the best approach towards Myanmar, with policies ranging over the years from tough sanctions to uncritical engagement. Successive Myanmar governments have exploited these differences to their advantage. The 1 February coup has highlighted this lack of consensus and the inability of the international community to exert any real pressure on Myanmar’s military leaders. Safe within the country’s borders and supported by powerful friends, they are determined to pursue their own nationalistic agenda.

In formulating their responses, governments and international organisations will need to weigh the different arguments put forward by idealists, realists and pragmatists. Even so, there are no quick or easy answers to the complex questions surrounding modern Myanmar. Whatever policies are adopted by the international community over the short term, they are unlikely to reduce the many difficult challenges faced by the Myanmar people. They may even increase them.

Key points:

  • Predictably, the international community cannot agree on a concerted response to the military coup d’état which took place in Myanmar on 1 February.
  • Past policy approaches towards Myanmar can be divided into three broad schools, led by idealists, realists and pragmatists.
  • None of these schools have answers to the problem of how to respond in a principled way to a regime that rejects international norms and is protected by powerful friends.
  • It is imperative that foreign governments fully take into account Myanmar’s unique circumstances and the intensely nationalistic mindset of its military leadership.
  • Whatever international responses are made to the coup, they are bound to be imperfect and will not result in any improvements in Myanmar’s situation over the short term.
Publication Details
License type:
All Rights Reserved
Access Rights Type: