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Current Affairs

Myanmar coup: All you need to know.

The troubled country has hit another roadblock, but it the light at the end of the tunnel seems bright.


12th February 2021 17:30 GMT

On March 2nd, 1962, the military, led by General Ne Win, took control of what was then called Burma. It was ruled by the general and became one of the most impoverished nations on the planet. Its people had long wished to change this, however, and end the socialist rule of the general. In 1990, it held the first free elections in almost 30 years, which saw a landslide victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Aung Suu Kyi, but they were denied power by the military.


However, with the Burmese constitutional referendum of 2008, elections were to be held in 2012, which the NLD won again by a landslide, taking power in 2011. The country has long been locked in civil war and has struggled with conflicts over alleged genocide and human trafficking, but the NLD had remained a solitary hope in this fight, standing for the people under the much-loved Aung Suu Kyi.


And yet, on February the first this year, after another landslide victory for the NLD in the most recent election held last November, the army toppled this elected government and arrested Suu Kyi. The military used claims of a rigged and unfair election to justify their actions.


For the people of Myanmar, the actions of the current general Min Aung Hlaing seem all too familiar, and his promises of an election in the coming year seem to bring back memories of the one in 1990. The army have also disrupted mobile phone services and internet connections, banned Facebook nationwide and have closed the largest international airport in Yangon.


When the army issued warnings a week before the coup, most citizens did not expect what has happened, with the motivations of the army currently very unclear. The army did already control a quarter of the seats in parliament, enough to block any constitutional changes, and the current global climate doesn’t look like the best time to seize power.


It may have been a last-ditch attempt from the General before he retired, which was going to be later this year, to stop the civilian government from taking firmer control of the army, a change they have been trying to make since 2011.  David Mathieson, an analyst, suspects that the commander “didn’t like the fact that [the army’s] standing has been diminished” and wants to restore the army’s authority.


Aung Hlaing’s reign is, unsurprisingly, very unstable, and protests in Myanmar are underway in their thousands. Calls both against the General and for Aung Suu Kyi are clear, and with increased condemnation from the West than there was back in the 1980s, it seems clear that the people of Myanmar will restore their civilian government.


In fact, many suspect that this coup will have a similar effect to the ignored election in 1990, and will ultimately result in a far less powerful military, with increased anger toward them from the people. Since 2011, Aung Suu Kyi has been careful not to upset the army and has looked to keep them on her side wherever she can, but it may be that after this, she will have the grounds to remove almost all their power and make the reforms she has been wanting to make for the last decade.


However, the hopefully happy ending to this does not hide the horror for the people. The protests have been almost entirely peaceful, with symbolic acts such as plucking the roots of beansprouts to show their intent to remove the roots of the army in their government, but three protesters were seriously injured last Friday, after a clash with the police.


There is also still no date for the military’s promised election, and Democracy is far from safe in the country. The sight of coups only makes the next general believe it is more possible. If the elected NLD and Aung Suu Kyi can return to power, as most think they will, they should listen to those with all the beansprouts, and remove the army from the government entirely, to ensure something like this is far less likely in the future. A strong reaction is good, but prevention is better.

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