With Myanmar’s junta laying waste to the country’s economy and bungling its COVID-19 response, the country stands on the verge of becoming a failed state. The economy may shrink by nearly twenty percent this year according to the World Bank and over 200,000 people have been internally displaced since the February coup. The United Nations estimates that nearly half the country could fall below the poverty line by 2022. At the same time, the country’s COVID-19 tests are coming back positive at a rate of over seven percent.
This mismanagement creates an opportunity for the parallel National Unity Government, formed to oppose the junta, to show it can rule effectively — from exile now and perhaps in the capital, Naypyidaw, in the future. With the armed forces ratcheting up its violent suppression of pro-democracy protesters, killing large numbers of civilians, the NUG and its military allies also hope to form a fighting force that can confront, and possibly win victories against, Myanmar’s military.
Opponents of the coup seem far closer to the first goal than to the second. For more on the NUG’s chances, see my new World Politics Review column.