Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has blanketed news sources for the past few weeks as a military coup arrested state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi had successfully formed the first civilian government the country has seen since 1962. Unfortunately, her efforts seem to have been in spite, as the military coup seized political power in Myanmar on February 1st of this year.
From 1962-2011, Myanmar was ruled by successive military regimes who ruled with an iron fist. This military regime was long debated, but the regime was undefeatable not by votes, but by power. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) actually won the election in 1990 over the regime, but the military refused to hand over power and continued their rule. Nonetheless, the NLD won the parliamentary majority in November 2015 during the first free vote since the end of the military regime, granting them the ability to choose the next president. In December 2020, the NLD won a large enough majority in parliament that they could form Myanmar’s next government. This election originally went “smoothly and without major irregularities.” Of course, this was only the calm before the storm.
On February 1st, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) declared the election to be fraudulent and launched a coup resulting in the re-imposition of military rule. The Tatmadaw also declared a year-long state of emergency, citing article 417 of Myanmar’s constitution which permits military takeover in an event of an emergency that threatens national sovereignty. Civilians reported internet disruptions, cellular service failure, TV “technical issues,” and suspension of financial services beginning at 3 am. Social media sites like Instagram and WhatsApp have been down ever since. The military council has announced the State Administrative Council, with 11 governing members and Min Aung Hlaing as chair.
Motives for the coup are still unclear, but the Tatmadaw continues to claim that fraudulent
election reports are a threat to national sovereignty. It was likely motivated by an interest in maintaining the political power of the military, particularly the financial and business benefits Min Aung Hlaing would see should the military maintain power.
400 elected members of parliament, including Aun San Suu Kyi, were placed under house arrest. On February 4th, however, they clearly defied the coup and began taking the oath of office. . Suu Kyi has been arrested for allegedly illegally importing walkie talkies into her home, and prior president Win Myint has been arrested for breaking COVID-19 regulations via waving at a passing vehicle. NLD headquarters were raided on February 10th, likely with the goal of preventing any return of the elected parliament members.
Civil discourse has arisen since the military has returned to power and protests against the coup are the largest the country has seen since 2007. Teachers, lawyers, bank officials, students, and many others have taken to the streets to protest the military regime. Police attempts to scatter protestors have included throwing bricks, rocks, and shooting rubber bullets. One protestor was also shot with a bullet that put her in the hospital, but the military denies this claim. UN Rapporteur addressed the shooting on Twitter, adding “The world stands in solidarity with the protestors of Myanmar.”
UN response has been limited, despite their emergency meeting held on February 2nd. They drafted a British-drafted resolution that urged that “democracy is expeditiously restored,” but failed to garner support from all 15 members and was not released. Otherwise, they took no action to suppress the military coup. Joe Biden announced US sanctions against those involved in the military coup on Wednesday, with more specifics to come later this week.
Despite protests and international support rolling into Myanmar through social media, the military coup has yet to step back. Hopefully, international organizations like the UN will take action within the next week. For now, stay safe, stay sane, and eat the rich.