The dreams and future of Myanmar youths, particularly those who are studying abroad like myself, have been taken away ever since the Feb 1 Myanmar military coup. Those students have had big dreams to contribute back to the country and work in the developmental sectors after graduation. However, their futures are fading away and uncertain to be able to achieve their primary targeted goals due to the given unstable political situation in Myanmar.
After the military seized control of power on February 1 with the detention of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other fellow party members of National League for Democracy (NLD) on the same day, Myanmar is currently in critical chaos and under state of emergency. The military has filed charges against State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi under import-export law for possessing illegal walkie-talkies and accused her of violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law. Nationwide anti-coup protests are taking place on a daily basis calling for her release and other party members.
The country’s health sector is in halt; shutting down all government-run hospitals since doctors in those hospitals have started and engaged in the “Civil Disobedience Movement” (CDM) – refusing to work for the regime. Along with this initiative movement of medical doctors, staff from all layers such as nurses, teachers, engineers, firefighters, train drivers, and staff from major private banks are also joining this CDM movement. Tensions have been taking place between the military and people due to the internet blockade every night from 1am to 9 am.
The on-ground situation between civilians and the military is getting worse and worse. The United Nations in Myanmar tweeted UN Resident Coordinator Humanitarian Coordinator, Ola Almgren’s statement on their twitter by quoting “Yesterday (March 3) was a tragic day for Myanmar. Dozens of unarmed & peaceful protestors killed & many more injured”. Particularly, 19-year-old young and brave girl lost her life while protesting. She was one of tragic losses of lives of Myanmar protesters.
Following the complete chaos, foreign governments have urged their citizens who are currently residing in Myanmar to leave as soon as possible. On February 14,the US Embassy in Myanmar announced a statement calling back the non-emergency U.S. government employees, their family members as well as all US citizens from Myanmar; and providing limited flights out of Myanmar. Similarly, Singapore also advises its citizens to consider leaving Myanmar as soon as they can. Those foreign people in Myanmar include embassy staff, businessmen, and other social entrepreneurs. Their leaving would shake the socio-economic life of Myanmar people; suspending their current work process or losing their jobs permanently.
How did Myanmar develop after the military regime ended in 2015?
After the country’s first civilian government led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide election in 2015, the country moved from military rule to democracy, from a centralized economy to a market-oriented economy and from decades-long conflict towards peace. After opening up, Myanmar attracted numerous international organizations and donors. With the lifting of sanctions and the new investment law (that is implemented in 2016) after the isolation of the country by the international community for more than one decade, the country could stimulate domestic and foreign investments, increase investor protections and create jobs sooner or later.
Youth development & opportunities
With the country’s transition from military rule to democracy in 2016, opportunities for youths increased as well. In education, the decade-long closed Yangon University reopened again where students first got access to study International Relations and Political Science subjects in 2013. The Political Science subject was introduced for the first time and the government opened access to learn at the university. Scholarship opportunities and international student exchange programs were abundantly available for students. Myanmar students studying abroad through international scholarship programs have increased in number.
With the opening up of the country, hopes of the youths became realized. For those who want to get into government organizations such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, non-transparency and unfair recruitment and selection processes were replaced by free and fair selection. In the past, giving bribes to high-positioned persons would be an easy method to get a job in government-related organizations. The arrival of INGOs and NGOs as well as the growth of CSOs and social enterprises within the country could enlighten the futures of the youths who are passionate about working at those private organizations with higher salary compared with lower salary when working in public organizations.
The more the investments come, the more job opportunities will be. With the recognition that the foreign direct investments could bring or create jobs within the country, The Myanmar-Japan joint venture project: the Thilawa Special Economic Zone gives a sound example of bringing out job opportunities to Myanmar youths.
Potential for loss of ‘youth opportunities’ following the military coup?
Due to the current happenings in Myanmar, hopes and future of Myanmar youths are vague and ambiguous. They are losing their hopes and in despair.
Doubtlessly, it has had many negative impacts on youths. Along with the military coup and the following consequences of sanctions imposed by western countries on Myanmar, many international companies, NGOs, INGOs, social enterprises and also massive investments are expected to leave sooner or later; resulting in rare opportunities for jobs, scholarships and studying abroad. In other words, there would be no better chances for youths studying abroad who like to go home and work back in Myanmar. Simultaneously, it would be a huge loss for the country in terms of human capital in facilitating the nation’s economy and development if they prefer working in foreign countries instead.
Some of my fellow students who are studying here in Thailand has the same sentiments.
“Our dreams were destroyed. We cannot expect any investment coming to our country along with the job opportunities. It is nonsense to contribute back to the country which the military rules or work back under the military-ruled government”, said one master student from Mahidol University.
“Due to the current situation, I don’t even know what to do after this coup for my future plans. As a result, anxiety and sleep deprivation are the major problems for my studies”, said one undergrad from Assumption University.
“Unarmed citizens who go on the street everyday are gambling their lives for the country walking on the edge trying not to fall. As a citizen living abroad, I feel guilty that my support for my country is not a tiny bit compared to my dear brothers and sisters risking their lives on the street”, one master student from National Institute of Development Administration spoke out about his worries for his country back home.
Youth’s dreams and future are in vain. So is the future of the country.