Military coup in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi held with scores of leading political figures arrested by troops
The United States, through White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, has issued a stern warning to the coup makers saying it will ‘take action’ unless civilian rule is restored. The move follows persistent military claims of widespread fraud in the November 8th election which the ruling party won in a landslide.
Myanmar was plunged into chaos on Monday with the military staging a coup justified under a constitutional provision allowing the declaration of a state of emergency. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was detained along with scores of members of the ruling National League for Democracy Party.
On Monday morning, it appeared the military in Myanmar or the Tatmadaw had taken power in the country in what appears to be a coup.
The move began with the arrests of key political leaders including the country’s revered State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, followed by a large number of other officials associated with the ruling National League for Democracy Party which won a landslide in a General Election last November, an outcome that has, in recent weeks, been openly disputed by the country’s military.
Second election since the return to democracy
It was the second election since the country returned to some form of democratic rule after the first poll in 2015.
Since 2010, the Myanmar military had worked with Aung San Suu Kyi to forge a convoluted new constitution in which, it maintained control over key ministries and 25% of parliamentary seats while specifically denying her the role of President.
After the November 8th election, it appeared that the National League for Democracy had won 396 seats in the House of Representatives, far more than the 322 seats needed to form a government
Coup comes just days before a new government was to be formed in complex parliamentary votes
The military’s move, on Monday, comes just ahead of parliamentary meetings to elect a new administration under a complex mechanism due to Myanmar’s status as a Union of states. It follows a week of heightened speculation about the possibility of a coup in the country.
It is understood that the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party had only won 33 seats in an election which saw a 70% turnout among the country’s voting population of 37.3 million people.
National League for Democracy spokesperson told a reporter he was waiting for soldiers to arrest him
A spokesperson for the National League for Democracy on Monday explained what was going on. ‘I received internal reports about our state counsellor and the president being taken by the military. As far as I was informed, Shan State’s Planning and Finance Minister U Soe Nyunt Lwin, Kayah state’s NLD chairman Thaung Htay and some NLD representatives of the Ayeyarwady region’s parliament have been detained,’ Dr Myo Nyunt told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. ‘Two members of the Central Executive Committee of the party were taken and I am also waiting to be detained as I was informed by our members that my turn will come shortly’
75% of the internet not working
Later, amid patchy communications throughout the country with a 75% reduction in internet connectivity, especially in Yangon and the capital city Nay Pyi Taw, the military announced on the armed forces TV channel that a state of emergency has been declared for one year and that the Commander-in-chief of the Army, Min Aung Hlaing, would assume power.
Army Vice President declared a constitutional emergency after the President was detained
The military is attempting to justify its position by claiming a military Vice President, taking on the role of Acting President, had invoked a constitutional provision to declare a state of emergency on the basis of widespread fraud in the November election.
It is understood that representatives from the United States, European Union and the United Nations have all dismissed such claims as did the country’s Election Commission.
However, last week, amid a backlash and warnings even from the diplomatic corps in the country as its intentions became plain, the military issued a statement saying it found ‘the process of the 2020 election unacceptable’.
White House rejects the power grab
At the White House, spokesperson Jen Psaki issued a blunt statement on the developments within the Southeast Asian country on Thailand’s western border: ‘The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed.’
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose reputation was tarnished in the western world over the Rohingya crisis had begun to look elsewhere
Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her resistance against the military and was detained by the junta under house arrest for 15 years between 1989 and 2010.
She was part of a brokered deal with the regime which ran the country for nearly 50 years from 1962, to return it from the military’s grip to some semblance of civilian rule.
However, the popular State Counsellor at home, saw her reputation in western countries tarnished by her carefully calibrated position on the alleged persecution and genocide perpetrated by the military on the Muslim Rohingya population.
This, according to informed sources, had led her to look more and more towards China and India in recent years as it looked like Myanmar was forging a path towards greater democracy on its own terms.
Well known Burmese historian has a sinking feeling: ‘The doors just opened to a very different future’
Commenting on what happened on Monday the grandson of former Myanmar UN Secretary-general from 1961 to 1971 General U Thant, Thant Myint-U, a historian and writer who himself has worked with the UN and on the Myanmar peace process between the military and civilian leaders, issued a downbeat analysis of events unfolding in his country on social media: ‘The doors just opened to a very different future. I have a sinking feeling that no one will really be able to control what comes next.’
About the Author
Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.