On February 1, Myanmar’s military, officially known as the Tatmadaw in a coup, overthrew the Government and took power, while detaining Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The military has also issued a state-wide emergency for one year and has suspended all telecom and internet services in major cities. The coup comes just days before the Parliament’s first session, which would have reaffirmed last November’s election in which the military-backed party, the USDP lost.
There has been no official statement from Myanmar’s military aside from the televised national announcement that said power has been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing. The coup has drawn heavy criticism from leaders around the world including the United Nations (UN) and human rights organizations. UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the move and called it a “serious blow to democratic reforms.” The UN security council called for an emergency meeting and called for the release of the detainees.
United States President Joe Biden released a statement saying, “the international community should come together in one voice to press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they have detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions, and refrain from violence against civilians.” A review of all the sanctions that were removed would be reviewed and the U.S. will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack, said the statement. Meanwhile, China has urged both sides to resolve differences with Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand calling it an internal matter.
While the coup was condemned and criticized, no communication was even established with the Myanmar military to stabilize the situation. This move has threatened democracy and proves that the military is in power and will be able to do anything. This situation further endangers the Rohingya minority who have been the victims of the horrific crimes committed by the military. This move can also be a way for the military not only to stop the democratic process but also the development that the country has seen for the past several years.
It should also be noted that Aung San Suu Kyi has defended the military for the genocide that has been taking place against the Rohingyas and has been criticized for not developing a new generation of leaders within the country. Despite her success and failures as a leader, democracy must be respected and followed, and the people have made their choice. If the military does not change the situation soon and allows people’s voices to be heard, the protests that have been going on will further turn into civil violence, which the country does not need to witness. The UN needs to intervene and propose a peaceful solution if the situation doesn’t get better.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, was one of the leading campaigners to restore democracy in Myanmar and spent over 15 years under house arrest. In the first democratic election held in Myanmar, led her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) to victory. She has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and is a de facto leader of the country. In the recently held, second democratic election, the NLD won by a landslide, defeating the military-backed party. The opposition backed by the armed forces has claimed fraud and called for a rerun of the vote. Commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has taken over and yields a lot of political influence.
Ms. Suu Kyi has urged her followers to protest against the coup and many have started protesting and have taken to the streets. Thousands of people rallied again in Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon recently for the second consecutive day. No major clashes have been reported despite various protests taking place. Facebook has been temporarily banned in the country after citizens took to social media to protest against the coup.
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