Voices from ASEAN: Public Opinion on the 2021 Coup in Myanmar

02. 10. 2023

Kristina Kironska

The 1 February 2021 Myanmar military coup, which overthrew an elected government and installed a brutal military dictatorship, has posed an enormous challenge to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Due to the increase in the junta’s unbridled violence against the people, armed resistance groups across Myanmar are growing, and the multiple resulting conflicts have now begun to affect ASEAN states bordering Myanmar and those beyond. Despite adopting a Five-Point Consensus on the crisis four months after the military takeover, ASEAN has failed to fulfill its pledges or take any meaningful steps to address the Myanmar crisis.

Min Aung Hlaing, chief of the Myanmar junta, Chairman of the State Administration Council, and de facto Prime Minister of Myanmar

The coup has created disunity within ASEAN, and the members can be divided in two groups with different political interests. One group – comprising Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos – has little interest in pressuring Myanmar’s military given the insecurity of their own domestic political affairs, as well as their fears of getting involved with issues of human rights and democracy that could set an ASEAN precedent with the potential to haunt them in the future. The other group, comprising countries with more mature political and governance systems (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Brunei) is demanding the isolation of the junta and pushing for the implementation of ASEAN's Five-Point Consensus and the exclusion of the junta from ASEAN meetings.

The people of Myanmar have expressed disappointment with ASEAN’s limited action and the ASEAN flag has been burned numerous times in Myanmar as a sign of dissatisfaction with the group. Not only the people of Myanmar but also people from other ASEAN countries are increasingly dissatisfied with ASEAN's lack of action. As part of the Sinophone Borderlands Indo-Pacific Survey

(convened by the author and her colleagues at Palacky University Olomouc), in summer 2022, more than 1,200 respondents from six ASEAN countries (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines) were asked about their perception of the matter.

From the data gathered, it may be inferred that the majority of the public from the six surveyed ASEAN countries oppose the Myanmar junta. When asked what ASEAN's response to the Myanmar crisis should be, people in all these countries indicated that they would prefer the organization to oppose the junta rather than accept it as the new government, with the highest proportion of responses to this effect in Thailand (70%), followed by Indonesia (63%) and Vietnam (60%), and the remaining three countries at a solid 56–57%.


Digging deeper into the data, the findings reveal that in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines, older generations are more likely to support the junta than younger ones. The research also found that men are more likely than women to oppose the junta in Singapore and the Philippines. In Indonesia and Vietnam, people with a higher level of education overwhelmingly tend to oppose the junta. Additionally, those who believe that military strength is necessary to ensure peace are more likely to accept military regimes, while those who believe that military force only makes problems worse are more inclined to oppose the junta’s rule. In all countries (except for Vietnam, where this question could not

be asked due to the authoritarian nature of the government), people who are less satisfied with the political situation in their own country are more in favor of opposing the military regime in Myanmar. Further, the more the respondents see dictators and military figures as a threat to peace and stability in their own countries (Prayuth Chan-o-cha in Thailand, Soeharto in Indonesia, and Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines), the more they are inclined to oppose the Myanmar junta.

While ASEAN states and the elites are divided on what – if any – action should be taken in response to the coup, the public in all six countries surveyed would clearly prefer ASEAN to oppose the junta and demand restoration of the democratically elected government (which is no longer a viable option at this stage). Despite limited action and solidarity from the top-level leadership of ASEAN, the people of Myanmar have earned tremendous support from the public in ASEAN members states.

The full version of this article will be published in 2024 under the title "Voices matter: Understanding the people’s voices in ASEAN’s reaction to Myanmar’s abusive junta", by Sophia Htwe and Kristina Kironska, in an edited volume edited by Michal Lubina and Chosein Yamahara, published by Palgrave.

by Kristina Kironska, Assistant Professor at Palacky University Olomouc and Advocacy Director at the Central European Institute of Asian Studies

July 2023

Source: https://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Min_Aun_Hlain