Coup, Conflict, and the Covid-19 Pandemic: Burmese Peoples Moving in Times of Isolation


  • Miriam Jaehn Kyoto University



Conflict, COVID-19, Military Coup, Movement, Political Protest


This paper focuses on the political crises shaping Burmese1 peoples’ im-mobilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. As governments around the world urged people to stay at home to be protected from infection and transmission, throughout 2021 many Burmese people protested the military coup of 1 February and fled Myanmar for safety. I problematize these movements of the Burmese peoples through the complex interplay between the triple C of (ethnic) conflict, COVID-19, and coup. I contend that, in Myanmar, adhering to COVID-19 measures emphasizing (self-)isolation and immobility was impossible as they served the military to suppress peoples’ critique and protests regarding the government’s coup and its mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, Burmese peoples’ physical movements and political mobilisation were necessitated to fight against an ensuing political disempowerment of the people. In other words, the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic in correlation with long-standing ‘ethnic’ conflicts and a military coup required the Burmese peoples to carefully contest an internationally propagated so-called ‘new norm’ of self-isolation at home and other social distancing measures, which bore the risk of suppression and of renewing political isolation experienced since the country’s first military government.

Author Biography

Miriam Jaehn, Kyoto University

Miriam Jaehn is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University under the Humboldt Foundation and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) program. She received her PhD degree in Comparative Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore in 2022. Her primary interest of research is the experiences of Rohingya refugees in South and Southeast Asia, most notably their refugee journeys and the reconstitution of their community into new diasporas. 


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