On Monday, Myanmar witnessed the military gain control of the country through a coup. On a television address, the army declared that the power has been passed on to the commander-in-chief. It has declared a year-long national emergency. It is also seen that several state ministers including Suu Kyi have been detained in the capital Naypyidaw.
This was a consequence of months of ongoing tension over alleged election irregularities between the civilian government and the military known as the Tatmadaw. Since the 2015 elections, these two bodies have tried to be in a power-sharing setup. However, after the outbreak of Monday’s coup in Myanmar, this sharing seems to have come to a stall.
Here's what you need to know about the situation.
Who is Suu Kyi? What is Myanmar’s political scenario like?
Once recognized as an international democracy icon, Suu Kyi is a former political prisoner of Myanmar. After spending 15 years under house arrest, she finally was released in 2010. Her 2015 election victory was a landmark moment for the country as it finally moved to a democracy from a military regime after 50 long years.
Despite a part democratic regime, the military was not very keen on giving up its power. In 2008, the ruling junta drafted a constitution that ensured that the military still had a dominating influence. This constitution allotted the military a quarter of seats along with key ministries like home affairs and defence. It also enjoys veto power on any attempts to amend the constitution.
It's within this power-sharing framework that Suu Kyi and the NLD first formed a government in 2015. However, Suu Kyi was elected to office as the title of ‘state counsellor’, as this was the only loophole that allowed her to come to power. This was because the constitutional provisions did not permit her to become the president.
Controversies of Suu Kyi during her tenure
Suu Kyi’s tenure was quickly in making real progress with the peace processes that aimed to end the country's many ethnic civil wars. She also came under international notice for her inability to speak up against the alleged military atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims. Hence, she has continuously sided with the military and denied these charges. However, domestically she has maintained the momentum. In November 2020, the NLD again won the polls, thus giving her a second term.
How did the coup in Myanmar suddenly break out?
This triggering of a coup outbreak is associated with the parliamentary elections of November in Myanmar. The USDP aka The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party performed terribly in the polls. This made them demand a new vote on the grounds of bias and unfair campaigning. Thus the military repeatedly argued about the election results. It apparently claimed that there existed more than 10.5 million cases of "potential fraud.” However, it did not display any evidence for the same. The election commission too denied the presence of voter fraud.
Thus, despite having allegations of genocide Suu Kyi and her party successfully won another term.
In the previous week, a military spokesperson had issued a warning about taking matters into their own hands if the dispute was not solved. However several international leaders including the UN secretary-general raised their concerns on a possible military threat. To this, the military responded that their comments have been misunderstood. But in reality, it was evident, the military had seized power in a coup.
What is the current scenario in Myanmar?
It is seen that Suu Kyi, the President, and other cabinet members have been detained in their official residences. In a television address, the army justified this by mentioning how they failed to take action against existent election frauds. Hence, the situation called for a state emergency. They quoted the constitution and said that in cases like these the commander-in-chief has the constitutional right to "take over and exercise State sovereign power." Thus power has been transferred to the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing. Myanmar's first Vice President and former general Myint Swe was appointed as the country's acting President on Monday. The military also talked about holding free and fair elections, after the election commission is reconstituted and voters list are completely investigated.
However, the current scenario has witnessed a major drop in network and internet connections making it severely difficult for the citizens to be connected with the outside world. The banks across the country too are temporarily shut. Several doctors too have voiced their solidarity and decided to go on a strike to protest the coup.
How did global readers respond?
Several world leaders have expressed their concerns over this event. US President Joe Biden called on Myanmar's military leaders 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." He also threatened to withdraw the sanctions given to Myanmar as it was turning into a progressive democracy. The UN security council also is to discuss the situation in private. Several other countries, including India, Japan, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia have condemned the coup and called for the release of the leaders.
This military coup outbreak in Myanmar might have its own vested interests and reasons. But one cannot deny the forefront violation of human rights and degradation in the standard of living of the citizens. It is hoped that the situation is slightly normalized as soon as possible and it comes to a consensus where democracy can be reinstated in the nation.