Myanmar has been in turmoil since early February, after the country’s armed forces staged a coup. Since then, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets, demanding a return to civilian rule. The military council is taking strict action against them. What is happening exactly?
Myanmar. Even helped me.
Myanmar is located in Southeast Asia and was a British colony until 1948. Myanmar was formerly known as Burma and it was a military dictatorship between 1962 and 2011.
Then came the return to civilian rule led by Aung San Suu Kyi. This Nobel Prize winner has been committed to democracy since the late 1980s and has spent years under house arrest.
The army continued to control. For example, some seats in the Parliament of Myanmar are reserved for military personnel.
Myanmar has a population of about 54 million. The predominant religion is Buddhism, but the country has many other religions that are very ethnically diverse. The ethnic conflicts that have been going on since independence have occurred in several states.
In recent years, a great deal of international attention has focused on the situation in Rakhine State, where Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, has been acting on a massive scale since 2017 against a separatist movement of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority. According to the United Nations, the Tatmadaw is guilty of genocide. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled.
For Aung San Suu Kyi, who remained wholeheartedly behind the military, this was a fatal blow to her international reputation as a symbol of democratic transition.
Why is it displayed now and how does it work?
The Tatmadaw seized power in the country on 1 February with a coup. President Win Myint, political leader Aung San Suu Kyi and several other prominent members of the ruling National League for Democracy party were arrested.
Immediately after the coup, mass protests erupted that escalated over the following two weeks. Hundreds of thousands of protesters are demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians and the restoration of civilian government.
The army is cracking down on the demonstrators. Myanmar is a relatively closed country, so data on casualties is difficult to obtain. International news agencies reported on the basis of eyewitnesses, such as local doctors, that soldiers were shooting protesters alive. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested. A curfew has been imposed and the military council regularly blocks the internet or cuts off electricity.
Reports are circulating on social media that several police officers have joined the protesters or allowed them to pass through the barricades, but this cannot be independently confirmed.
How does the army justify the coup?
The National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi scored a massive victory in the parliamentary elections last November, with more than 80 percent of the seats exempt. The Tatmadaw movement, which rallied behind the opposition, claims widespread fraud. According to Myanmar’s Electoral Council, this is nonsense.
Junta leader Min Aung Hling stated that the Tatmadaw wanted to organize new elections, then hand over power to the winner.
No news has been heard about Aung San Suu Kyi since the coup. Her lawyer said she had heard from a judge that the prime minister would attend Wednesday’s hearing. She is accused of illegally importing military radios for her security guards. The lawyer said he has not yet spoken to Aung San Suu Kyi himself.
The leader of the ousted Myanmar government, Aung San Suu Kyi.
What do other countries think about the coup in Myanmar?
The coup was widely condemned in the West. And also by the Netherlands, where Foreign Minister Steve Blok called for the “immediate release of all democratically elected politicians and civil society representatives”.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed grave concern over the use of “unacceptable violence” against civilian demonstrators in Myanmar.
International action against the military junta in Myanmar is difficult, because China considers the country its backyard. Beijing responded to the coup in early February by describing Myanmar as a “friendly neighbor”. Chinese state media described the coup as a “major reshuffle”.