On the first morning of February, the world was awakened by news of a sudden political change in Myanmar. The Burmese military detained Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others, immediately took over the state power and declared the country into a one-year state of emergency. Some Western countries and the media used “coups” to describe this situation. But the Myanmar military insists that it is acting in accordance with the constitution and intends to respond to “election fraud.” In November last year, after the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi won an overwhelming 83% victory in the general election, tensions between the Myanmar civil government and the military have escalated. At noon on the 1st, a statement published on Aung San Suu Kyi’s Facebook account urged the Burmese people to protest against the “coup.” This sudden change may plunge Myanmar into sharper confrontations and new turmoil. The fierce response from the United States and other Western countries has added new uncertainties to this possibility. They strongly condemned the Myanmar military and threatened to take action. Experts interviewed by the “Global Times” reporter believe that this matter may become a starting point for the United States to re-enter Myanmar, and does not rule out the possibility of the United States imposing sanctions or military suppression on Myanmar. “We have noticed what happened in Myanmar and are learning more about the situation.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on the 1st that China hopes that all parties in Myanmar will properly handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework to maintain political and social stability.
The military’s action at this time has a mystery
Monday was originally the day for the first meeting of the People’s House (lower house) of Myanmar’s new federal parliament. A few hours before this, the Myanmar military launched a raid. The Myanmar Democratic League spokesperson Myo Nuo, who was the first to disclose the news to the world, told the Washington Post later on the 1st that Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Myint and all the chief ministers of the Democratic League were “taken away at gunpoint.” of”. These ministers represent more than a dozen regions in the country. A person familiar with the situation revealed to a reporter from the Global Times that the arrests also included the leader of the Myanmar political group “88th Generation Student Organization” and the vice chairman of the opposition Shan State National League for Democracy U So Nulun.
According to Reuters, since the early morning of the 1st, calls to Naypyidaw and Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, could not be connected, and the signals of multiple channels of the national television station have also been interrupted. The Burmese military entered and controlled several state councils, and soldiers had occupied Yangon City Hall. In the morning of the same day, the Myanmar National Defense Forces Real Press Release Team announced that the National Defense and Security Committee held a meeting in Naypyidaw, and Vice President Min Rui was appointed acting president. Min Rui, who has a military background, immediately declared the country into a state of emergency and handed over national power to Min Anglai, commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces. The New York Times said that the military’s return to power will extend Min Anglai’s power, who originally retired this summer.
The Myanmar military said on the 1st through its mouthpiece media Myawaddy TV that the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and others was a response to “election fraud.” The Associated Press reported that in the election on November 8 last year, the Democratic League won 396 of the 476 seats, while the military-backed Gongfa Party won only 33. The military has repeatedly complained publicly about election fraud and asked the government and the election commission to review the results of the election. On the 1st, Min Aung Lay once again accused more than 25% of the voter list of possible fraud, and the Federal Election Commission did not adequately resolve the allegations. Therefore, the military force obtained power in accordance with the Constitution.
Before agreeing to share power in 2011 and start the democratic election process, the Myanmar military dominated the country for nearly 50 years. The current constitution still ensures that the military maintains considerable influence in national affairs, holds a quarter of the prescribed seats in the parliament, and controls some key departments. In 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi led the NLD to an overwhelming victory in the general election. An expert on Myanmar issues who asked not to be named told the Global Times reporter on the 1st that since that election, the Gongfa Party supported by the Myanmar military has repeatedly reduced its seats in the general election. This makes it difficult for their proposals to be passed in parliament, and for the NLD’s proposals, even if they disagree, they can’t stop them. Hengkai, an expert on Myanmar issues, analyzed the timing of military actions and said that if a new parliament is held, it means that the results of the general election have been officially confirmed.
The Union Election Commission of Myanmar previously stated that there is no evidence to support the fraud allegations. According to a Reuters report, at noon on the 1st, Aung San Suu Kyi issued a statement on Facebook, accusing “the military’s actions to put this country back under dictatorship.” “I urge the people not to accept it, to react, and to do everything possible to protest the military coup.” The Associated Press said that it is currently impossible to confirm who made the statement.
Supporters of different political parties in Yangon and other places took to the streets on the 1st. Supporters of the military drove pickup trucks and waved national flags to celebrate the “coup” in Yangon. Democracy activists and voters who support the NLD were shocked and angry. “Global Times” reporters saw that some videos showed the two sides clashing on the streets. The Wall Street Journal commented that Myanmar’s previous process of getting rid of military rule, although slow and rugged, was seen as a victory for democracy. The events on Monday plunged Myanmar into new political turmoil.
U.S. threatens to “take action”
United Nations Secretary-General Guterres strongly condemned the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders on the 1st, and called on all Myanmar leaders to take the interests of democratic reforms as their top priority, engage in meaningful dialogue, avoid violence, and fully respect human rights and Basic freedom.
The actions of the Myanmar military caused a strong reaction in the Western world. The United States, which was still in the middle of the night of January 31, quickly issued a statement saying that the United States was shocked by the Burmese military’s “undermining the democratic process” and urged it to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees, otherwise it would take actions against those responsible. action. Yin Yihang, a researcher at the Taihe Think Tank who has been resident in Myanmar for many years, told the Global Times reporter that this incident may become a starting point for the United States to intervene in the situation in Myanmar.
On the 1st, British Prime Minister Johnson, European Commission President Von der Lein, and European Council President Michel all used the term “coup” in their tweets, expressing “strong condemnation.” French government spokesman Attar said that the French side is paying close attention to the incident in Myanmar and discussing relevant countermeasures with UN partners. Burmese expats living in Japan, Thailand, Nepal and other countries protested outside the local Burmese embassy.
The New York Times commented that Myanmar was once regarded as a rare case in which the military government was willing to actively transfer some power. When the political change began, Myanmar was hailed by the West as a beacon of democracy in a world where authoritarianism was on the rise. But the political transformation of this Southeast Asian country has not been as smooth as the political myth describes it. Thailand’s “Bangkok Post” stated that the tensions in Yangon and Naypyidaw have been increasing in the past week, and tanks and armored vehicles have been patrolling these two cities. To add fuel to the fire, the Western diplomatic mission in Myanmar issued an untimely statement on Friday, demanding that the Myanmar Parliament convene a meeting on time. This became the main focus of protesters in Yangon against foreign interference last weekend.
Different from the strong attitude of Western countries, ASEAN countries expressed concern and respect for the situation in Myanmar. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on the 1st that Singapore is closely following the development of the situation in Myanmar, calling on all parties to exercise restraint and maintain communication, hoping that the current situation can return to normal as soon as possible. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Palawi emphasized that this is an “internal affair” of Myanmar. A spokesperson for the President of the Philippines stated that the Philippines will not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.
The National Broadcasting Corporation reported that although some people said it was a “coup”, the Myanmar military insisted that their actions were legally justified. A clause in the 2008 constitution stated that in the event of a national emergency, the government can coordinate with the defense and security committee led by the military to transfer the government’s executive, legislative, and judicial powers to the commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces. Russian President’s Press Secretary Peskov said on the 1st that Russia is closely tracking and analyzing the situation in Myanmar, but it is too early to draw a conclusion.
Chinese enterprises and Chinese people are not affected much
Affected by the national emergency, Yangon Airport was closed from February 1 to the end of April, during which all flights were cancelled. After the military took over the power, people in Yangon, Mandalay and other places snapped up the necessities of life such as rice and oil, and there were long lines in front of bank ATMs. “Global Times” reporters learned from relevant sources that the Yangon market is still open, but for security reasons, grassroots officials have asked local residents to remove any signs with political significance. The Myanmar military website said on the evening of the 1st that the country’s banks have resumed operations.
The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar urgently reminded Chinese citizens and Chinese-funded institutions in Myanmar to take safety precautions. A Chinese-funded company based in Myanmar told the Global Times that since the incident was mainly in Naypyidaw and most of the Chinese-funded companies were in Yangon, the impact was not significant. At present, employees’ emotions are relatively stable, the project is running normally, and some work matters that need to be connected with the local government are affected. Mr. Zheng, an employee of a Chinese private enterprise stationed in Myanmar, told reporters that the current situation of local Chinese is relatively safe.
The Myanmar military said in a statement on the 1st that after the end of the national emergency, Myanmar will re-elect and transfer state power to the newly elected party. During the implementation of the national emergency, the Federal Election Commission will be reformed and the process of last year’s general election will be reviewed. At the same time, measures will continue to be taken to deal with the epidemic and promote economic recovery. Min Aung Lai said he would respect the Constitution. On the same day, the Military Defense Command stated that it had reappointed 11 federal ministers.
The Russian Satellite News Agency quoted an analysis by Liao Chunyong, director of the Myanmar Institute of Guangxi University for Nationalities, saying that the incident was a sign of the potential structural contradictions between the Myanmar military and the democratically elected government. The military intends to show that it still controls state power. At present, the military claims that it will take over for one year, so when the government will return to the people depends on the NLD’s response and response to the military. Yin Yihang told the “Global Times” reporter that after five years of ruling, the Democratic League is different from the fragmented state that Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest in the 1990s. After the military takes over the power this time, the Democratic League may find it difficult to be “quiet.” The turbulent situation in Myanmar may continue for some time.