Military Take Over Myanmar In A Coup

The leader of the Tatmadaw Gen. Min Aung Hlaing (Photo By: AP Photo/Aung Sine Oo)

The leader of the Tatmadaw Gen. Min Aung Hlaing (Photo By: AP Photo/Aung Sine Oo)

Safa Hameed

On February 1st, the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s elite military, carried out a coup that detained and disposed of the government leaders and officials, sending Myanmar into a state of emergency as the military works to cement and place its hold over the country.

Myanmar is no foreigner to coups with two taking place in 1962 and 1988. Moreover, it is no foreigner to military rule and dictatorship either. Up until 2015, Myanmar had been under the rule of the Tatmadaw until the work of pro-democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi couldn’t be ignored anymore. Aung San Suu Kyi revived the National League for Democracy (NLD) and garnered the people’s support while international pressure on the military helped to foster democracy, albeit a very fragile one, in 2015. 

The military agreed to instill democracy, however, many provisions were implemented by the military in order to ensure they remained in large control over the country. For example,  in order for any changes to be instituted, 75% of the Myanmar Congress has to pass the legislation. Subsequently, the constitution, which was made largely by the military, ensured that they had at least 25% of seats in Congress no matter what, giving them the power to make or break the legislation.

With all this being said and done, the military didn’t anticipate Suu Kyi’s reverence and control over the people as she rose to a God-like status in Myanmar, and her party won 77% of the vote in the first national election in 2015.

This only worked to irk the Tatmadaw over the years, especially as her popularity and reverence only continued to grow. The tipping point for the military was the election of November of 2020 where the NLD won 396 of the 497 seats in Congress. The Tatmadaw claimed that fraud was rampant in the election and they demanded that new military-supervised elections be held in place as they took their plight to the Supreme Court. 

Things only escalated from there as the Military used one of the provisions that they included in the Constitution, which allows for the military to take over for a year in the presence of a threat to security. Under this premise, they quickly detained all party leaders and officials as the military closed internet, telephone, transportation, and banking access all over the country.

Prominent leaders like Suu Kyi and President Win Myint are facing unrelated charges in court in what seems like an effort to keep them out of power. Suu Kyi is being charged with violating COVID-19 gathering laws and foreign import laws while the President has been detained on charges of violating natural disaster laws regarding (most likely) pandemic gathering laws. Both have been denied legal representation and their respective trial are likely to drag out for over a year.

Responses by the people are mixed; at first, pro-military supporters filled the streets directly after the coup, but now, many pro-democratic and anti-military supporters have flooded the streets. 

Millions came out to protest the government in the biggest demonstration movement in the country since the Saffron Protest that swept Myanmar in 2007. Protests surged especially after several unarmed protesters were killed by the military in Mandalay on Feb 20. The Tatmadaw has never played nice with protesters, as seen during the Saffron Protests, and on Feb 21st, 18 protesters were killed–the highest number ever by the military, enraging protesters even more.

The military has not stopped its aggravated violence as tanks patrol the streets and nighttime raids on protestors and critics continue in abundance. The Biden administration has responded by saying it will respond with heavy sanctions. In the meantime, Suu Kyi (and her party as well) has vehemently made her outrage known, “I urge people not to accept the coup by the military, and resist it resoundingly.”