Military rule hurts Myanmar’s economy, nation scores zero in civil liberty index | Data

Myanmar shares the joint last rank with Syria and North Korea in the civil liberty index

January 26, 2024 05:30 pm | Updated 05:30 pm IST

Free, at last: Photojournalist Kaung Sett Lin welcomed by family after being released from prison in Myanmar on January 4. Myanmar’s military government has imprisoned thousands political detainees for opposing army rule.

Free, at last: Photojournalist Kaung Sett Lin welcomed by family after being released from prison in Myanmar on January 4. Myanmar’s military government has imprisoned thousands political detainees for opposing army rule. | Photo Credit: Thein Zaw

Nearly three years since Myanmar’s military junta overthrew a democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the country is wracked by civil war. While the National Unity Government formed by the NLD — many of whose representatives along with elected parliamentarians are in exile — gave the call for armed action leading to various Peoples Defence Forces taking on the military, several ethnic armed organisations (EAO) have also fought the junta.

Early this month, after months of intense conflict that resulted in the junta losing control over scores of towns and military outposts to a coalition of three EAOs — the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and the Arakan Army, who called themselves the Three Brotherhood Alliance, a China brokered ceasefire agreement was signed between the alliance and the junta.

But hostilities continue. The prolonged civil war has severely disrupted the economy even as the junta suspended civil liberties and political freedoms following the coup. The number of journalists imprisoned shot up considerably and the Human Development Index plunged after years of growth.

Chart 1 | The chart plots Myanmar’s electoral democracy index by V-Dem (0: least democratic, 1: most democratic).

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In 2020, just before the junta took over, this index reached a peak, with Myanmar ranking 101 of 179 nations, better than Malaysia’s and India’s. In 2022, the rankings plunged to 173, closer to North Korea and Afghanistan (Chart 1).

Chart 2 | The chart plots the liberal democracy index by V-Dem, which combines voting rights, freedom of association, and civil liberties (0: least democratic, 1: most democratic).

A similar story can be seen in Chart 2 as well. The index gradually improved after the Suu Kyi government was elected in 2015 and peaked in 2020 only to drastically fall in the next two years following the coup. The country’s ranking in the index dropped from 106 of 179 nations in 2020 to 168 in 2022.

Also read| War in Myanmar: On the junta and restoring democracy

Chart 3 | The chart plots Myanmar’s civil liberty index (0: least liberties, 1: most liberties).

In fact, on the civil liberty index (Chart 3), which focuses on the extent to which citizens enjoy civil liberties, Myanmar was assigned a score of 0 in 2022, meaning the country’s citizens have no such liberties now. Notably, this score was lower than even the pre-2011 figures — the transition year which saw the military initiating the process of handing over the government to a civilian regime after years of junta rule. The country’s ranking in the index dropped from 145 of 167 countries in 2020 to a joint last rank along with Syria and North Korea in 2022.

Chart 4 | The chart plots Myanmar’s freedom of expression index (0: least free, 1: most free).

In the freedom of expression index (Chart 4), which measures the extent to which people can voice their opinions in the country, the scores in 2022 plunged to the level seen before 2011. Currently, the country is ranked 171 of 179 nations on this measure.

Chart 5 | The chart plots the year-wise number of journalists imprisoned in Myanmar.

The number of journalists imprisoned went up from 0 in 2020 to 48 in 2022 — the third highest number of arrests globally after Iran and China (Chart 5). This was reflected in the press freedom index (Chart 6) — the country ranked 173 of 180 nations in 2022, a sharp drop from the 139th rank it held in 2020, three places above India.

Chart 6 | The chart plots Myanmar’s press freedom index. The index assesses violence against journalists based on data compiled by the Reporters without Borders (RSF) (0: least free, 100: most free).

Chart 7 | The chart plots Myanmar’s GDP per capita (in current $).

The country’s economy has suffered too. The GDP per capita (Chart 7) decreased rapidly post the 2020-peak and the per capita income too tapered sharply (Chart 8).

Chart 8 | The chart plots Myanmar’s per capita income (in current $).

Altogether, these took a toll on the Human Development Index which measures health, knowledge and standard of living (Chart 9).

Chart 9 | The chart plots Myanmar’s human development index. The index measures key dimensions including a long and healthy life, a good education, and a decent standard of living (0: least developed, 1: most most developed).

vignesh.r@thehindu.co.in, rebecca.varghese@thehindu.co.in

Source: Our World in Data, World Bank, Reporters without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

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