Myanmar Coup: Military Seizes Power After Landslide Loss in Elections
By: Sashwata Saha
Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup d’etat for the first time since 1988, on February 1, apparently ending a decade-long process of stuttering political reform. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s top leader, and the country’s president, Win Myint, were both detained in the pre-dawn hours of Monday.
According to local media reports, NLD lawmakers, members of its Central Executive Committee and celebrated supporters of the party reggae singer Saw Pose Kwah have also been taken into military custody. The army also detained junior party officials and activists in other parts of Myanmar when they came out to protest the coup. All lines of communication such as radio and the internet across the country were cut for over 24 hours.
Following the take0ver, the army was quick to announce a year-long state of emergency, with former General Myint Swe, current vice president and former head of the Yangon military command, to serve as acting president. Myint Swe has transferred legislature, executive, and judicial power to the army’s commander in chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for the duration of the emergency.
This move, which was preceded by months of speculation of a military coup and denials by high ranking officials, came just as the country’s new parliament was to be sworn in for the coming five-year term. This meant that most of the NLD’s leadership were in the capital city of Naypyidaw for the induction ceremony, while those not in the capital were detained in their home states.
The military claims that it is taking control under Section 417 of Myanmar’s Constitution, in order to investigate alleged fraud in the country’s November 8 election. The election saw a thundering victory for Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, which won an astonishing 83% of the parliamentary seats up for election, while the military’s electoral proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), won just 6.9%.
The Tatmadaw and USDP have since claimed that there was massive voter fraud in the election, and last week claimed to have identified 8.6 million individual cases of fraud, though neither has provided any evidence. The Union Election Commission last week rejected its allegations.
The military takeover was met with an immediate wall of condemnation from foreign governments and human rights groups. In a short statement, White House Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. it was “alarmed” by the reports coming out of Myanmar and urged “the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law and to release those detained today.” Similar statements followed from Australia, India, Singapore, and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
These statements are likely to be followed by harsher measures such as the deletion of economic sanctions and monetary aid by these governments, which threaten to send Myanmar back into the international isolation that anteceded the country’s long years of junta rule.
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