Global Indices Record Myanmar’s Rapid Decline Under Junta Rule

By The Irrawaddy 18 May 2023

Min Aung Hlaing’s military regime announced two core goals when it seized power in a coup two years ago: National prosperity and food security.

“Keep moving forward to achieve our goal” has been the junta chief’s mantra ever since.

However, global indices measuring various aspects of development show Myanmar is actually moving backward at a rapid pace.

Asian danger zone 

According to the Global Peace Index, military-ruled Myanmar is among the most dangerous countries in Asia, ranking 9th behind Afghanistan followed by Yemen, Syria, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran.

Myanmar is undisputedly the most dangerous country in Southeast Asia, being the only regional power in the “dangerous” category.

Western countries including the US and Britain have warned their citizens against traveling to Myanmar. Even the regime itself has warned its officials and military personnel to exercise caution while traveling within the country as it struggles to contain a nationwide resistance movement.

Meanwhile, Myanmar citizens live in fear of arbitrary arrest and killings by regime forces. Tourism website Travelling Lifestyle warns that Myanmar is among the most dangerous countries in Asia, citing the Global Peace Index.

The country was ranked 12th on the index under the now-ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government.

World’s top 10 food-insecure countries

Agriculture is the mainstay of Myanmar’s economy. So it seems absurd to report that many people are now going hungry in the country. But this is true, all thanks to the military junta.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned early this month that Myanmar faces a worsening food crisis. Myanmar now ranks sixth on the organization’s list of countries facing severe food insecurity, after DR Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Yemen.

FAO says conflicts, economic chaos, and natural disasters triggered by climate change are primary drivers of acute food insecurity. Unfortunately, Myanmar is experiencing all three. The regime is also contributing by torching farms along with grain stored for cultivation in the country’s agricultural heartland of central Myanmar.

Families across the country are facing hardships as a result of armed conflicts, high fuel and food prices, and unemployment, among other factors.

Prices of basic foodstuffs and necessities have almost tripled over the past two years. This has forced residents even in towns that are relatively stable to reduce their consumption, with some surviving on one meal a day. In the largely rural conflict zones, meanwhile, huge numbers of villagers displaced by junta raids survive on food donated by other civilians.

Near-bottom of Press Freedom Index

Junta suppression of media saw Myanmar ranked 173 out of 180 countries in the 2023 World Press Freedom Index compiled by France-based Reporters Without Borders.

Myanmar is now the second-biggest jailer of journalists after China but by far the biggest in terms of population size.

By comparison, Myanmar was ranked 139th under the NLD government.

Religious freedom a cause for concern 

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has listed Myanmar as a country of particular concern, in a list that also includes China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

Regime troops’ campaign of arson against villages in central Myanmar has not spared Buddhist monasteries, despite Min Aung Hlaing’s duplicitous attempts to promote himself as protector of Buddhism and his junta as legitimately representing the country’s Buddhist majority.

Junta soldiers could not have torched the dozens if not hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and churches in Chin and Kayah states as well as Magwe and Sagaing regions without approval from their chain of command headed by Min Aung Hlaing.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked the release of the 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom by criticizing the regime’s repression of religious minorities in Myanmar and declaring Washington will support brave advocates for religious freedom.

The US religious freedom commission listed Myanmar as a country of particular concern in 2020 under the NLD government, citing the military’s crackdown on Muslim Rohingya.

One of the most corrupt countries 

Myanmar ranked 157th out of 180 countries on the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) compiled by Transparency International, challenging North Korea as among the worst countries in Asia-Pacific.

In the 2020 CPI report, Myanmar under the NLD government had risen 13 points since 2012.