The Southeast Asian nation faces major threat to its democracy
On Feb. 1, a military coup took place in Myanmar following alleged voter fraud in last November’s general election. The army has detained former President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, thus taking full control of the government.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party formed a majority government after winning more than 60 per cent of the seats in Myanmar’s parliament last November. However, the military accused the party of voter fraud and refused to accept the results.
Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing managed to reverse Myanmar’s transition towards democracy. His army severely limited telecommunications and shut down the internet across the country for 24 hours on Feb. 6.
A state of emergency was declared for a whole year as soon as the coup began. The official announcement was transmitted by military-owned television network Myawaddy TV.
Expecting a wave of mass protests, the new government banned all gatherings of more than five people in Myanmar’s two largest cities and imposed an overnight curfew.
Still, thousands of protesters — particularly monks, school teachers and students — took to the streets of Yangon in demanding for Suu Kyi’s release. Doctors, nurses, and government workers have also contributed to this resistance by engaging in civil disobedience, which continues to this day.
Since Feb. 1, the military has arrested at least 241 peaceful demonstrators and activists, including senior government officials. The Burmese police force also fired water cannons at the protesters to control the opposition movement in the capital city Naypyidaw.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the actions of Myanmar’s military, calling on the self-declared government to immediately release everyone who has been detained and to respect the democratic process in the nation.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden issued sanctions against Myanmar, freezing all American assets of military coup leaders, denying them entry into the United States, and restricting many Burmese exports until the military steps down.
As of now, Suu Kyi may be sentenced to two years in prison for possessing “illegal” walkie-talkies. In fact, this is not the first time that the state counsellor has been targeted for representing democracy in the nation. She has already spent 15 years under house arrest throughout her political career.
In 1991, Suu Kyi received a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to establish democracy in the country. She continues to strive for justice in Myanmar by calling on the nation to protest against the army’s takeover to prevent “a military dictatorship.”
However, the military coup leader announced that only cooperating with his government will help Myanmar achieve “the successful realization of democracy.” Despite the mass protests and international attention, the military is not willing to step down from its position of power anytime soon.
Graphic by @the.beta.lab