This alert brings you up to date with the unfolding situation in Myanmar after the military coup on February 1st. Information will be updated regularly by the Editor-in-Chief.
- A military coup on February 1st has ended Myanmar’s march towards democracy.
- National League for Democracy (NLD) members, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, were arrested.
- A ‘one-year state of emergency’ was imposed, and army chief General Min Aung Hlaing now holds power.
- The Tatmadaw or military claim they responded to “alleged fraud” during the November 2020 elections where the pro-military party won only 33 /476 seats.
- International observers have rejected these allegations.
Who is Aung San Suu Kyi?
- She is the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero, General Aung San.
- Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who won the 1990 elections.
- The military refused to accept NLD’s win, staged a coup, placed Suu Kyi under house arrest from 1990-2010.
- In 1991, Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for democracy.
- After being released from home arrest, she won democratic elections in 2015 and 2020.
What about Suu Kyi’s views on human rights?
- Suu Kyi faced international backlash for her comments supporting the Myanmar military for their actions against Muslim Rohingyas.
- She defended the generals against the International Criminal Court’s accusations of genocide carried out against Rohingya people.
- The Rohingya are considered ‘invaders’ by the local population, and her domestic popularity was enhanced after these comments.
So, no more elections?
- The military has promised elections in one year.
- Its presumable hope is to increase popularity and be able to gather more vote share.
- The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won only 7% of the vote in November 2020 elections. Suu Kyi’s party won over 80%.
- This is the likely factor behind the coup — the military not wanting to lose social relevance.
- However, the elections could be pushed further indefinitely, and once conducted, are unlikely to be free and fair.
What about the Rohingya people?
- Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group. Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country.
- The Muslim minority has faced institutionalised discrimination, such as exclusionary citizenship laws.
- In 2017, a genocide campaign was driven by the army that led to over 740,000 Rohingya people fleeing the country.
- There is a sense of palpable fear after the military took over.
What about the economy?
- The transition to democracy in 2015 was favourable for the economy.
- Investment inflows were recorded which will likely be reserved now given the coup.
- China will likely play a significant role if the junta government allies with it.
- Renewable of sanctions and economic isolation from western countries is exceptionally likely.
- This, combined with the shock from the pandemic, will significantly hurt growth prospects.
What is the international response?
- The UK and EU have been critical of the coup.
- US President Joe Biden has condemned the action stating “force should never seek to overrule the will of the people” and that he will review previously revoked sanctions against Myanmar.
- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the coup was “a serious blow to democratic reforms.”
- China urged all sides to “resolve differences”, a much softer note than Western countries.
- Regional players such as the Philippines, Cambodia, and Thailand have termed it an “internal matter”.