/ 02 February 2021

Coup in Myanmar


Myanmar’s armed forces have carried out a coup d’etat. The military’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has taken power and declared a state of emergency that will remain in place for a year. The nation’s democratically elected de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her ally President Win Myint, and other senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party were detained in raids early yesterday morning. Suu Kyi’s party issued a statement on her behalf likening the military to a dictatorship. “I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup,” she said. 


Military intervention in Myanmar’s affairs of state isn’t new. After a coup in 1962, the country was run by the military for 50 years until the transition to democracy started in 2011. But even then, the military’s position in politics was enshrined in the constitution – it holds a quarter of the seats in parliament, and has the power to appoint key ministers. That’s made for a power struggle with the nation’s leading NLD party and its wildly popular leader Suu Kyi when they were elected in 2015 and again last year. And a note on why she’s referred to as a ‘de facto leader’: Myanmar’s constitution forbids her from becoming the president because her children are foreign nationals. After spending 15 years in detention, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s formal position is (or was…) State Counsellor of Myanmar. Once a darling of the human rights set, she fell out of favour in recent times for refusing to condemn the military’s 2017 crackdown against the Rohingya Muslims.


The military says it’s about voter fraud and a stolen election. Seriously… Analysts doubt the claims and say it’s about the military-backed party (the USDP) performing poorly in last November’s election as Suu Kyi’s NLD gobbled up 70% of the votes. And why now? The parliament was due to restart yesterday when it would confirm the election result. As for the longer term, observers and international leaders worry about what it means for the future of the fledgling democracy. 

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