Unraveling Myanmar’s coup

The morning of February 1 saw yet another takeover of democratic institutions by the military in Myanmar. In a coup d’état, The Tatmadaw, through a broadcast, usurped the democratically elected government of Aung Sang Suu Kyi and assumed power in the country’s 3rd military coup since its independence. They say it’s for one year with powers vested in Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing, Myint Swe, the incumbent vice president, took on his role as acting president.

By 6 AM IST, the citizenry knew what was happening as the internet was cut off, cellular service became sketchy, and news services at a virtual halt. The spokesperson of the National League for Democracy, Wyo Nyunt, broke the news of detainment of leaders and expressed fears about his own detention; his fears of detainment, much like the fears of an imminent coup earlier, were well-founded. The military resorted to typical tactics of arresting parliamentarians on absurd charges, cutting phone lines to the capital, Naypyitaw, and halting banking services. On February 3rd, Aung Sang Suu Kyi had been arrested for “export of unlicensed communication devices discovered during a raid.”

Possible Motives

The official stance of the Tatmadaw relates to the alleged voter fraud in the recent 2020 November elections. The military posits that voter fraud threatens national sovereignty. It becomes necessary to submit that in the 2020 elections, the NDP led by Suu Kyi won by a large margin with 396 seats out of a veritable 476 while the military proxy, Union and Solidarity party won 33 seats. The civilian headed Union Election Commission quashed reports of voter fraud a day before the coup.

This whole move can be seen as a preservation of power exercise since the military has been used to excessive authority in Myanmar even by its Constitution. Scholars opine that the coup is seen as General Hlaing’s efforts at immunity from possible prosecution for his acts in the Rohingya crisis.

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