The Myanmar Coup

 Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, seized control of Myanmar on February 1, 2021, detaining the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party that won the November 2020 elections, citing election fraud, a claim that was refuted by the UEC (United Elections Commission of Myanmar). 

Military coups are not unknown to Myanmar, having spent more than 50 years under military rulers - it was the military that facilitated Myanmar’s transformation to democracy by drafting the 2008 Constitution, touted as a ‘roadmap to democracy.' But it only created an institutional set-up prone to misuse wherein the Burmese Constitution ensured the military of its supremacy in national affairs, with a political party that contested elections as its proxy. The results of the 2020 election gave the NLD a majority significantly bigger compared to previous elections, serving as a mandate for potential constitutional reform and dismantling military rule.

All of this was effectively undone by the events of February, with mass arrests of political leaders and internet blackouts and the establishment of an executive body called the State Administration Council lead exclusively by military leaders and non-NDP civilians, and it isn’t likely that the Tatmadaw will abide by its promise of holding a new election anytime soon. However, there is still hope for a change in the status quo, with massive resistance from Burmese both within Myanmar and outside it and large mobilizations and strikes by healthcare workers, civil servants and industrial workers, with calls for boycotting products related to the military through the ‘Stop Buying Junta Business’ campaign. A visible sign of the protests is the three-finger salute that was also seen in October last year at demonstrations against the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in neighboring Thailand, and the usage of red ribbons as symbols of solidarity. 

The international response has been quite strong with the United States embassy and diplomatic missions of 15 other countries and the European Union issuing a joint statement ‘opposing any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition.' Nevertheless, the fight for Burmese democracy has spanned many bloody decades of protest, and the military coup has not yet undone all the substantial gains made by the movement for democracy.

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