The generals who took power over Myanmar in a coup earlier this year keep killing in their ruthless campaign to crush a popular uprising against military rule. Over 500 people have been killed in the Southeast Asian country since the Feb. 1 coup, including 40 children.

Myanmar has been a military dictatorship on and off – but mostly on – since the 1960s. But the army “wasn’t always a repressive force,” writes Tharaphi Than in this brief history, which explains how Myanmar’s generals got so powerful – and so brutal.

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Catesby Holmes

International Editor | Politics Editor

Every March 27, the Myanmar military celebrates its anniversary with a parade. The day of the 2021 parade, soldiers killed at least 90 pro-democracy protesters. Xinhua/Zhang Dongqiang via Getty Images

Myanmar’s brutal military was once a force for freedom – but it’s been waging civil war for decades

Tharaphi Than, Northern Illinois University

What began in the 1940s as a revolutionary army created to liberate Myanmar from British colonial rule soon turned repressive. The country has been a military dictatorship on and off since 1962.

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