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A Short Summary of the Myanmar Coup

Michelle Liou

Posted on February 13, 2021 06:06

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On February 1, 2021, a coup d'état by Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw) broke out in Myanmar, where they declared a one year state of emergency and overthrew the National League for Democracy, the ruling party.

Military rule in Myanmar had started in 1962, lasting till 2011 as the military junta was replaced by a civilian government. Since then, Myanmar has embarked on reforms toward liberal democracy and a mixed economy. The international community had been relatively supportive of Myanmar amid the shift from military rule, with the US restoring full diplomatic relations in 2012 and Japan resuming foreign aid to Myanmar.  

In truth, the Tatmadaw never really gave up political power. For example, the 2008 constitution not only gave the military veto power over constitutional amendments but also attempted to constrain Suu Kyi’s power (the former state counselor of Myanmar). In addition, military generals retained control of the defense, border, and home affairs. Furthermore, the government, with the backing of military chiefs, had continued with political persecution and violence against journalists and minority groups.

So, why did the Tatmadaw suddenly decide to commandeer power from Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy?

Firstly, the NLD had circumvented the rules set by the military-drafted constitution by creating a new position that effectively made Suu Kyi the leader of Myanmar. Secondly, during her term, Suu Kyi had shunned the military, while attempts for constitutional reform had explicitly sought to curb the military’s power. Feelings of animosity from the military amplified when Suu Kyi refused to hold a session to address the military’s voter fraud claims during the last election. Overall, Suu Kyi was seen as a threat to the military’s primacy amid her growing influence and consolidation of power. Even though the Tatmadaw justified their takeover by alleging election fraud, the Myanmar coup was likely more motivated by the personal ambition of Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief, who felt the need to regain control and respect.

As expected, the Myanmar coup was denounced internationally and locally. Myanmar citizens have already started to voice their discontent by holding organized protests against the military's seizure of power and calling for the release of Suu Kyi and other lawmakers, who are currently held captive by the military. The U.N. Security Council also released a statement calling for the release of the detained, while US president Joe Biden has threatened the imposition of sanctions to press the military to relinquish power. 

Despite the military declaring a one-year state of emergency, past precedent suggests that military rule will last far longer. Not only that, but Myanmar’s ethnic minorities are under severe threat, as the military has long committed genocide and human rights abuses against minorities in the region. In fact, during the Tatmadaw’s rule until 2011, the military brutally went after citizens in areas where ethnic armed organizations were fighting rebellions. Although the situation has changed little under democratic rule, a revitalization of the Tatmadaw would undoubtedly be worse for Rohingya and Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. 

Thus, it’s imperative that the international community, particularly America, unequivocally denounce the coup and cooperatively act to respond to the violence, address human rights atrocities, and restore democracy in the region. 

Michelle Liou

Posted on February 13, 2021 06:06

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Source: Al Jazeera

Rights activists are concerned about the health of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar.

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