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Myanmar coup: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes control

From BBC

Aung San Suu Kyi, seen here at a coronavirus vaccination clinic in January, is Myanmar’s de facto leader

Myanmar’s military has seized power after detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders.

Troops are patrolling streets in major cities and communications are limited. The top army commander is now in charge and a one-year state of emergency has been declared, army TV announced.

The move follows a landslide win by Ms Suu Kyi’s party in an election the army claims was marred by fraud.

She urged her supporters to “not accept this” and “protest against the coup”.

In a letter written in preparation for her impending detention, she said the military’s actions would put the country back under a dictatorship.

The military has already announced replacements for a number of ministers.

On the streets of the main city, Yangon, people said they felt their hard-fought battle for democracy had been lost.

One 25-year-old resident, who asked not to be named, told the BBC: “Waking up to learn your world has been completely turned upside down overnight was not a new feeling, but a feeling that I thought that we had moved on from, and one that I never thought we’d be forced to feel again.”

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was ruled by the armed forces until 2011, when democratic reforms led by Aung San Suu Kyi ended military rule.

Police vehicles line up in Sule Pagoda Road, Yangon.
image captionPolice vehicles line up in Sule Pagoda Road, Yangon while TV channels went off air

She spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010. She was internationally hailed as a beacon of democracy and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

But her international reputation suffered severely following an army crackdown on the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority. Former supporters accused her of refusing to condemn the military or acknowledge accounts of atrocities.

How did the coup unfold?

In the early hours of Monday, the army’s TV station said power had been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Ms Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were arrested in a series of raids. It is not clear where they are being held. captionThe early morning arrest of regional MP Pa Pa Han was live streamed on Facebook by her husband

No major violence has been reported. Soldiers blocked roads in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and the main city, Yangon. International and domestic TV channels, including the state broadcaster, went off air.

Internet and phone services have been disrupted. Banks said they had been forced to close.

Later, the military announced that 24 ministers and deputies had been removed, and 11 replacements had been named, including in finance, health, the interior and foreign affairs.

Myanmar people line up in front of a ATM machine of a closed bank in Yangon, Myanmar, 01 February 2021
image captionQueues formed at ATM machines in Yangon and other cities

The military takeover follows weeks of tensions between the armed forces and the government following parliamentary elections lost by the army-backed opposition.

The military’s allegations of fraud were not backed by the electoral commission.


So why has the army acted now?

Jonathan Head

So it is official. The armed forces in Myanmar have confirmed that they have carried out a coup d’etat, their first against a civilian government since 1962, and in apparent violation of the constitution which the military promised to honour as recently as last Saturday.

The grievances which have been driving tension between the military and the government are well enough known. The military-backed party, the USDP, performed poorly in last November’s general election, whereas the NLD did even better than in 2015.

The timing of this coup is also easily explained. This week the first session of parliament since the election was due to start, which would have enshrined the election result by approving the next government. That will no longer happen.

But the military’s longer game plan is hard to fathom. What do they plan to do in the year they have given themselves to run the country? There will be public anger over a coup so soon after an election in which 70% of voters defied the Covid-19 pandemic to vote so overwhelmingly for Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Famously stubborn, she is unlikely to co-operate with a gun held to her head. Her ally, President Win Myint, is the only person authorised under the constitution to enact a state of emergency. He has been detained with her. 

For the moment the military’s action appears reckless, and puts Myanmar on a perilous path.

Map of Myanmar

What has the reaction been in Myanmar?

Michael Ghilezan, a partner of a US law firm who lives in Yangon, told the BBC he had expected military vehicles and protests in the city, but there was instead an eerie calm. “The most common reaction from my Burmese friends has been anger. They feel deeply betrayed by the military and the USDP.”

This was reflected in other comments from the streets, although there have been some supporters of the army out waving flags in Yangon.

Theinny Oo, a development consultant, told Reuters: “We had a lawful election. People voted for the one they preferred. We have no protection under the law now.”

Many people feared giving their names. One 64-year-old resident of Hlaing township told AFP: “I don’t want the coup. I have seen many transitions in this country and I was looking forward to a better future.”

Author and historian Thant Myint-U tweeted that a door had opened to a “very different future”, and he feared for the millions who have been descending into poverty. BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

And abroad?

The United States has condemned the coup, saying it “opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of all those detained and said the US “stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy”.

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and Aung San Suu Kyi’s “unlawful imprisonment”. BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

European Union leaders have issued similar condemnations.

China, which has previously opposed international intervention in Myanmar, urged all sides in the country to “resolve differences”.

Min Aung Hlaing
image captionMilitary chief Min Aung Hlaing is now in power

Who is Aung San Suu Kyi? 

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero, Gen Aung San who was assassinated just before the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948. captionHow did this peace icon end up at a genocide trial?

She remained popular with the public despite spending years under house arrest. 

She was released in 2010, and in November 2015 she led the NLD to a landslide victory in Myanmar’s first openly contested election for 25 years.

The constitution forbids her from becoming president because she has children who are foreign nationals but the 75-year old was seen as de facto leader.

In recent years, her leadership has been defined by the treatment of the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.

In 2017 hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh due to an army crackdown sparked by deadly attacks on police stations in Rakhine state.

Ms Suu Kyi’s defence of the military over the widely condemned crackdown lost her much of her international support. Last year the EU said she could no longer attend any of its human rights prize events.

Some sanctions, particularly on military equipment, still remain over the treatment of the Rohingya, including those imposed by the EU and UK.

But there have already been calls, including from Human Rights Watch, for economic sanctions that have previously been relaxed to be heavily re-imposed.

For more on this story go to: BBC


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