Myanmar’s military has overturned the results of the country’s last year democratic elections as current leader Aung San Suu Kyi was set to hold on to the position of power. The military who seized that power last Monday, has now urged Myanmar’s masses who have set off in nation-wide protests not to “destroy democracy” following four straight days of protests. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening.
Myanmar saw its largest anti-coup protests take place in various areas of the country, despite a nationwide internet blackout aimed at breaking down the chances of mass gatherings. This was a result of direct outrage over the military’s decision to seize power, detain current leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and arrest other key senior figures of the ruling National League of Democracy (NLD) party.
State-run television have stated that the army has taken control of the country for at least one year, giving power to the commander-in-chief, General Min Aung Hlaing. The army stated that the decision to detain senior ruling party figures was a response to “fraud” that they have found during the country’s last year general election.
This has brought condemnation from world leaders and human rights activists around the world. United States president Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, released a statement that the US opposes “any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections to impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed”.
The United Nations Security council has also called for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the other detainees. The UN Human Rights council held a special session on the 12th of February to discuss the matter at the request of the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Key takeaways from the U.N Human Rights special session:
- A U.N human rights investigator has called on the Security Council to consider setting sanctions against Myanmar’s coup leaders. This comes after a “growing report and photographic evidence” that live ammunition is being used against protesters.
- A letter that had been signed by 300 elected parliamentarians in Myanmar was read out during the session. The letter urged the U.N to investigate the human rights violations that are being committed by the military. It also said that the new military regime has placed restrictions on people’s freedom of speech by preparing a telecommunications bill that aims to control access to the internet as well as mobile services.
- The 47-member states in the special session agreed upon a resolution that had been brought up by the UK and the EU which calls for Suu Kyi’s immediate release and an end to the violence. However, Russia and China had rejected the resolution as the two nations hold close ties with Myanmar. The two countries chose to “disassociate” themselves from the consensus.
- According to the White House, US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had discussed the Myanmar situation in a two-hour phone call early in the week. The UK is said to be considering its own sanctions, while members of the EU are also calling for similar action.
The Global Times newspaper of the CCP column requested that the Western nations stop interfering with Myanmar’s internal events and not to add unnecessary pressure. It also explains that the actions taken by the military as a result of a fradulent election system was “copied” from the West – and that the West should stop calling it a “coup”.
Democracy & Destruction
A military statement was announced on the early hours of the 9th of February on Myanmar’s government-run MRTV channel. The military warned the public that “democracy can be destroyed without discipline”. They also added that people who “harm the state’s stability, public safety and the rule of law” may be faced with legal action.
On the 13th of February, the country’s ruling military junta announced that they had released thousands of prisoners as protests still continue for a seventh straight day. Around 23,000 prisoners had been released on Myanmar’s Union Day – a national public holiday that observes the unification of the country.
Myanmar’s difficult past
Many fear that the coup is a sign that the country is ever moving closer back to the past of a military rule. Military rule is nothing new for the people of Myanmar as the military has controlled the nation since the 1960s. In 1947, nationalist leader General Aung San (father of Aung San Suu Kyi) was assassinated and leadership was then passed on to U Nu, a less politically involved figure.
This led to a civil war in the 1940s between various fractions wanting to seize power. The military stepped in and was able to see itself as the only force that could unite and hold the nation together. The military has been in power for over six decades, until protests urging for a change started to happen following a turbulent shift in the country’s economic performance.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Sakharov, and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom as she represented democracy and liberty in the face of harsh repression while still being put under house arrest. In 2015, she led the NLD party to victory in the nation’s first ever openly contested election in 25 years. Referred to many in the country as “The Lady”, Aung San Suu Kyi is a key figure who gave up her own freedom to fight for the people.
However, her international recognition has recently changed. Since being in power, her leadership has come under international pressure over the country’s treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority. While the Rohingya people see themselves to be indigenous to certain regions, the Myanmar government and Buddhist nationalists see them as descendants of people who had arrived during the British colonial era.
In 2017, thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring countries due to a government backed army crackdown that had been a response to attacks on police stations in Rohingya regions. Myanmar currently faces a lawsuit accusing the country of committing genocide. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is currently investigating the country for crimes against humanity.
Aung San Suu Kyi has since been under international condemnation for not acting to stop the atrocities, refusing to acknowledge the existence of it happening, and defending it at the ICJ has ever increasingly added onto that international pressure.
But the world can’t just wait and watch
International forces and world leaders will have to come together to give democracy rightfully back to the people of Myanmar.
As the military continues to stand their ground and assume their influence of power, the people of Myanmar will still continue to stand theirs.