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Where Myanmar Went Wrong

From Democratic Awakening to Ethnic Cleansing

Scorched earth: houses burning after sectarian clashes in Sittwe, Myanmar, June 2012. STAFF / REUTERS

Late last year, when news broke that Myanmar’s military had been systematically killing members of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, much of the world was shocked. In recent years, Myanmar (also known as Burma) had been mostly a good news story. After decades of brutal dominance by the military, the country had seen the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, score an all-too-rare democratic triumph, winning the 2015 national elections in a landslide. The NLD’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, an internationally celebrated dissident who had received the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to democratize Myanmar, became Myanmar’s de facto head of state. Many analysts and officials concluded that the county was finally on the path to democratic rule. Support poured in from Western democracies, including the United States. Myanmar had long been isolated, relying almost exclusively on China, which was content to turn

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