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On 1st February 2021, the military of Myanmar yet again staged a coup, arresting the country’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and detaining members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Myanmar has witnessed political instability since its early independence from Britain in 1948. In the history of an independent Myanmar, this is the third time such a coup has taken place. The country has been toggling between military and civil leadership since 1948, leading to its decade-long battle between democracy and military rule. Bottled-up with frustration, thousands of Burmese people have taken over the streets to protest against the coup. But the question resides, what caused the military to take such steps and why now?
Brief political history
The Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s official military force, seeks to control power over the civilian government over its decades of rule. To assert constant power, they spent nearly five years drafting a constitution allowing the country’s armed forces to maintain military control. Implemented in 2008, the constitution granted the military a plethora of powers. It gave them the right to act independently from the civilian government, retain control over all key ministers, to express its veto power over any legislation in the parliament with a 25% seat in the legislature.
However, the emergence of Suu Kyi’s NLD party over the years gave rise to the hostility of the military as the NDL captured 77% of parliament’s seats in 2015. In March 2020, Suu Kyi pushed to amend the 2008 constitution to strip the military of its many powers. However, in retaliation, the military used its veto power to prevent this. Essentially, Suu Kyi proposed amendments posed an immense threat to Myanmar’s armed forces.
Why did the military launch the coup and why now?
Source: Vox news
The military launched a d’etat coup on 1st February 2021 following the general elections in November 2020, where Suu Kyi’s NDL party won by a landslide of 83% of the parliamentary seats. The first session of parliament, which would validate the election results and approve the new government, was about to take place just before the coup.The military refused to recognize the results of the vote in response to the NDL’s landslide win and argued that they were fraudulent. The military chief’s commander, general Min Aung Hlaing, said the NDL party violated “election laws and regulations.” He is now demanding a re-vote as he believes the opposition took part in fraudulent activities.
However, the Myanmar Electoral Commission election commission has repeatedly reported that there is no evidence to support these claims. The military’s intervention was strategically organized just before the parliament’s opening. General Min Aung Hlaing is in power now and has declared a state of year-long emergency. He states that he aims to establish a “true and disciplined democracy” by holding another “free and fair trial” after the state emergency period.
How was the coup carried out?
Source: Aljazeera news
The commander in chief declared a coup and a state of national emergency on the military television station. He stated that senior leaders would be arrested and detained in response to the fraudulent claims. Their next course of action was to suspend telephone and internet service in major cities. Additionally, domestic and international flights were halted, including the cessation of several television broadcasts. In the city of Yangon, army trucks, armed personnel, and soldiers were stationed to carry out the coup.
How did the Burmese people react?
Thousands of Burmese people took to the streets to object peacefully against the coup. Protestors are waving banners and chanting anti-coup slogans saying, “#ReleaseOurLeader, #RespectOurVote, #RejectMilitaryCoup” and more. Internet networks, including Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, are also shut down in major cities. The police have recently responded to detained protestors at night who boycott the military without proper legal procedure. This has led to further unrest in the country and an increase in protests. In response, the military has now placed a curfew and announced several restrictions on public gatherings.
Over the last decade, Myanmar has witnessed tremendous changes in its political and economic situation. However, given the recent events, it is evident that the military is not willing to step down and give up its control. Myanmar’s political instability is likely to cause a downturn in its economy. It would be interesting to see how the events unfold in the country as the military’s commander chief had agreed to peacefully negotiate with ethnic armed organizations. He further stated to work towards economic prosperity keeping in mind long-term peace for all communities in the country.
Written by: By: Shreya Sharma