The military staged a coup in Myanmar and arrested 75-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. A state of emergency has been declared in the country.
In the early morning of February 1, the coup d’etat detained the head of the country’s ruling party in Southeast Asia, the National League for Democracy, state adviser and de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, President Vin Myin and other members of the political leadership.
The military who took power declared a state of emergency in the country for a year. State power will be transferred to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing.
Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK, told Sky News that people in Myanmar are reporting soldiers on the streets, but communication with the Asian country is difficult as internet and telephone networks in the country’s largest city, Yangon (formerly Rangoon), are experiencing problems. The state TV channel also stopped broadcasting, citing technical problems.
The reason for the aggravation of relations between the political leadership of Myanmar (former Burma) and the army was the discontent of the military with the results of the November elections, which they declared to be rigged.
In the general elections, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 396 out of 476 seats in parliament, while the Army’s Solidarity and Union Development Party won only 33 seats. The military said it found 8.6 million cases of electoral fraud. The Election Commission, while acknowledging some shortcomings, denied the rigging of the results.
In this regard, over the last time, there have been persistent rumors of a putsch – and they have come true. Last week, a military official refused to rule out the possibility of a coup, and a day later, Army Commander General Min Aung Hlaing said that the abolition of the constitution could become “necessary” under certain circumstances.
The military-owned Myawaddy TV announced the coup on February 1 and mentioned a section of the military’s constitution that allows the army to take over during a state of emergency. The reason for the seizure of power, in addition to the inability of the government to respond to the statements of the military about the falsification of voting results in the elections, was also named for its inability to postpone elections due to the coronavirus crisis.
Although a civilian government has ruled Myanmar in recent years, the military has retained control of the most important ministries and security forces. And before the start of democratic reforms in 2011, Myanmar was under military rule for a long time – after the 1962 coup.
“The military junta that has ruled Myanmar for decades has never really left power,” The Guardian quotes John Sifton, director of Asia protection at Human Rights Watch, as saying. “They never obeyed civil authorities, so today’s events, in a sense, just show the already existing political reality.”
Nor is it new to be arrested for the ousted leader of a country. The image of a fighter for human rights and democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi – the daughter of the founder of the Burmese armed forces and the Burmese Communist Party, a fighter for independence Aung San – spent a decade and a half under house arrest. After Myanmar returned to civilian rule, the Nobel laureate in 2016 became the de facto head of the country. She received a specially created post of state adviser (in fact, prime minister) and foreign minister – because she could not take the post of president, since her husband is British, and her children have citizenship of other states.
Over time, the former human rights defender acquired a controversial reputation – her name became associated with the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. This is an ethnic group compactly living in the state of Rakhine (Arakan). Their number in Myanmar was estimated to be between 800,000 and 1.1 million. It is believed that most of them moved to Burma during the British colonial rule. The Myanmar authorities call the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh – and on this basis, they were denied citizenship, moreover, the law prohibited them from having more than two children. The authorities tried to resettle them to Bangladesh – of course, all this created an explosive situation in the region.
In October 2016, dozens of Rohingya representatives attacked three Myanmar border posts, killing nine border guards. After that, government troops were brought into Rakhine State. Tens of thousands of people fled the military in Bangladesh. In February 2017, a UN report was published based on surveys of refugees: it contains shocking facts of extrajudicial killings of Rohingya by security forces and local nationalists, gang rapes, etc.
Thousands of members of this minority were reported to have died as a result of military action. This caused a storm of indignation in the Islamic world (suffice it to recall the 2017 rallies in Grozny in defense of the Muslims of Myanmar).
In December 2019, Aung San Sun Kyi personally traveled to The Hague to defend her country’s position at the International Court of Justice against the charges of Rohingya genocide. The Gambia filed a lawsuit against Myanmar.
The fact that Aung San Sun Kyi was in the same boat with the military cost her reputation abroad. In November 2018, the mayor of the French capital, Anne Hidalgo, stripped Aung San Suu Kyi of the title of “Honorary Citizen of Paris” for “her tacit position on the fate of the Rohingya Muslim minority.” For the same reason, she lost her honorary citizenship of Canada.
The coup in Myanmar has already been reacted in Washington. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “The United States opposes any attempt to change the results of the recent elections or obstruct Myanmar’s transition to democracy, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed.”
And new US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a statement expressing “grave concern and concern” over the reported detentions: “We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections. “The United States supports the people of Burma in their pursuit of democracy, freedom, peace, and development.” It is noteworthy that the head of the American Department of State used the “colonial” name of the country, which was rejected in Myanmar – Burma.