Myanmar is an incredible country with resilient people. It’s a land of ancient heritage, as places like Bagan and the temples of Mandalay remind us. Yet it is also an incredibly young population. I’ve had the opportunity to visit Myanmar twice in my life. In 2017 I visited as part of a Save the Children delegation. We saw firsthand many of the huge challenges facing this nation. We also saw a nation making the transition to democracy with the enthusiastic support of its people. That visit stood in stark contrast to my first visit in the 1990s, when Myanmar was ruled by a brutal and inept military regime. The memories of the events of 1988, which saw the military mow down protesting citizens, was still fresh in people’s minds. Yet, despite the repression, in so many homes and shops I saw the tiny, often postage-stamp-sized photos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She was their beacon of hope, and they risked arrest just by showing her image.
Today Myanmar has returned to military rule. The army is again on the streets, killing its citizens at peaceful protests. While the international community has few levers that are likely to deter the military, we must support the millions of Myanmars now fighting for a return to democracy. Suu Kyi and other political prisoners must be released and the results of the recent election honoured, and we must stand shoulder to shoulder with those in Myanmar who want a better, freer and democratic future by whatever means is available to us. The alternative would be a disaster for Myanmar and the bright future it can and should have.