In the early hours of Monday morning, February 1, tanks, helicopters, soldiers and police marched on the streets of Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital. Within hours, the military took control of the government and canceling a planned parliamentary session, shutting down Internet networks across the country, shutting down the stock market and commercial banks, seizing the airport and radio waves, and arresting a large number of politicians, civil society activists, including Aung San Suu Kyi the de facto leader of the civilian government and President Win Myint. Following the arrested Military declared a one-year state of emergency in the country.
The Myanmar military said late Tuesday that it has established a “State Administration Council” headed by its commander-in-chief, who will serve as the country’s highest decision-making body during the one-year state of emergency imposed after Monday’s coup. The 11-member council, chaired by the coup leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, was tasked with establishing a new election commission and other initiatives.
The move marked the beginning of military rule in earnest. The newly formed council consists of three civilian members, all criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader since 2016 and placed under house arrest after the coup.
Tatmadaw first came to power in 1962, then responded to the mass uprisings in 1988 with another coup and a promise to allow multiparty elections. However, after the NLD won the 1990 elections, the military stepped back from promises to create a national legislature and maintained martial law. Tatmadaw drafted the 2008 constitution allowing for multi-party elections and established the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) as a political tool for former military officials to participate in the 2010 elections.
The NLD competed until the 2012 and 2015 elections and won most of the seats it contested. China is one of Myanmar’s most important economic partners and has invested billions of dollars in mines, infrastructure and gas pipelines in the Southeast Asian country. The military discusses the results of the November general elections, which were decisively won by the previous ruling party, and says there will be a new “free and fair” election, where power will be transferred to the winning party.
Biden said Monday that “the international community must press the Burmese army to immediately give up the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions and avoid violence, he said. “
Biden now faces a dilemma as he prepares a response that would punish Myanmar’s generals without harming the wider population, who suffered from the sanctions imposed in the 1990s before the country’s transition to democracy ten years ago. “The United States has lifted the sanctions on Burma based on advancing democracy in the last decade,” he said, recalling the traditional name of Myanmar. “Reversing this progress will require an immediate review of our sanctions laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.” But beyond sanctions, the Biden administration and its partners must quietly enter and persuade them to take advantage of a military coup to gain more power in an NLD-led government.
This is far from an ideal or even democratic solution – especially for a government filled with a large number of Obama administration veterans involved in the opening of Myanmar – but for now it is the only solution that has avoided reversing the progress and decline of the last decade. Myanmar is into an even greater civil war and deprivation. It is also likely that China will support it.
Ethnic organizations were deeply disappointed by the lack of progress towards true federalism, even under Suu Kyi’s leadership. However, the complete closure of the democratic space may not be in the interest of various ethnic groups. The centralization of power in the army, the closure of legislatures and the lack of media freedom will restrict the scope of expressing ethnic interests.
There was no serious contention between the Tatmadaw and the ruling NLD that the economic policies of the latter undermined the commercial interests of the prominent military families. Compared to the 1980s and 1990s, Myanmar was relatively more intensely linked to the international economy. Some of the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, already disappointed with Myanmar’s handling of sectarian crises, will find this week’s political developments too inappropriate.
The military coup evoked sympathy for Suu Kyi, and future free and fair elections will likely bring him back to power with an even greater majority. So perhaps there is no other round of fair elections on the horizon, as the Tatmadaw will make every effort to keep power.
The coup will deepen Myanmar’s international isolation caused by the expulsion of the Muslim Rohingya minority in 2017. The US, EU and Britain strongly condemned the actions of the military and called for the release of political leaders and a return to the democratic process.
Western countries will likely impose additional sanctions on Myanmar, but Tatmadaw will likely be able to secure the support of China or Russia in blocking UN sanctions (China and Russia’s recent ministerial visits to Myanmar confirmed their good relationship). As a result, Myanmar’s dependence on China will increase.
The takeover also destroys hopes of the Rohingya return from Bangladesh. But the coup can improve the image of Aung San Suu Kyi as a defender of democracy and human rights, strained by his silence about the persecution of the Rohingya. The 2008 constitution played a strong political role by giving the military control of key interior, border and defense ministries.
Any change needs the support of military lawmakers who control a quarter of the seats in the country’s parliament. According to estimates compiled by the US Geological Survey, Myanmar extracted 30,000 metric tons of rare earth oxide equivalent in 2020, or 12.5 percent of global production, while it was 10.5 percent in 2019. percent share, while the US took 38,000 tons, or 15.8 percent.
Activist groups have also set up a Facebook group to organize their efforts, calling for civil disobedience campaigns. Staff in 70 hospitals and medical departments across the country reportedly stopped working to protest the coup and press for Suu Kyi’s release. Hundreds of healthcare professionals, including senior doctors, joined the “Red Ribbon Movement” and many put red ribbons on their clothes to show they are against the coup. Online, most social media changed their profile pictures to only one of the red color.
Myanmar is a country of 54 million people in Southeast Asia that shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos. It was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011 and led to international condemnation and sanctions. Aung San Suu Kyi campaigned for democratic reform for years. A gradual liberalization began in 2010, although the military still retains considerable influence.
A government led by Ms. Suu Kyi came to power after the free elections in 2015. But two years later, deadly military repression on the Rohingya Muslims caused hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh and triggered a rift between Ms. Suu Kyi and the international community. He remained popular at home and his party regained with a landslide in the November 2020 election.
However, the army has now stepped in to regain control. The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that the Myanmar army’s overthrow of the country’s civilian leadership meets the legal definition of a “coup”. The official appointment is important because it limits US aid to governments that seize power through military means.
State Department officials said that as a result, the US will take action to end the small direct financial assistance it offers to the country’s government. They added that US aid that goes directly to the people of Myanmar, including civil society or persecuted Rohingya refugees, will continue, but will do a more comprehensive review of US aid to the country.
The challenge lies in figuring out how to squeeze military officials – most of whom have very little financial accounts in the United States – without harming the civilian population. Another way Biden can counter Myanmar is to impose “secondary sanctions” that punish non-Americans doing business in Myanmar. This will cause many foreign companies outside of the US to move away from the country.
The United Nations Security Council held a session to discuss Myanmar on Tuesday, but there were divisions on how to move forward between Western nations and China, Myanmar’s largest trading partner and at times guarding it on the global stage. As chairman of the Security Council, Britain urged members of the group to “condemn the military coup” and to express “deep concern” about the arrest of Myanmar’s civilian leaders and civil society, including Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.
After China requested an extension, a tense debate on Tuesday morning passed and eventually ended without a deal. The US military does not have much influence with its counterparts in Myanmar as it does not sell weapons to the Myanmar army. Many of the country’s top military leaders have already been punished under the Global Magnitsky Act, including visa restrictions and individual sanctions.
According to Randy Schriver, who served as deputy defense minister for Indo-Pacific security affairs during the Trump administration, the military-military relationship between the two countries is limited. The two armies do not act together and only typically interact only in the context of multilateral discussions.
Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that he currently does not anticipate the need for US military action to resolve the conflict. “We certainly watched what happened in Burma with great alarm, but I don’t see a US military role right now,” Kirby said.
There is widespread bilateral support in Congress to promote democracy in Myanmar, and some lawmakers are exploring potential sanctions laws to punish the military. Foreign Ministry officials briefed lawmakers on events in Myanmar on Monday. A person familiar with the briefing told lawmakers that American officials had reached out to allies in Europe and Asia who had contacts with the Myanmar army but could not. The briefings also noted that many top Myanmar military leaders are already facing US sanctions and visa restrictions for human rights violations.
According to analysts, Winner China will now become an even more important source of financial aid as Western sanctions hurt. As part of the Belt and Road infrastructure investment project, the two countries signed agreements for the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a project that will boost trade for Myanmar while providing China with land access to a strategically valuable depth by road and rail. – Indian Ocean water port on Myanmar’s west coast. When Myanmar’s generals signed the democracy treaty ten years ago, they hoped to open the country to both Western and Chinese investments. Now that they have regained their full power, they will be almost entirely dependent on China. Beijing is happy to do business with everyone in power in Myanmar, but the West’s retreat will be good news.
The Myanmar military regime established an official national governing body on Tuesday, a day after staging a coup against the democratically elected National Democratic League (NLD)-led government. Baptized as the “State Administration Council” (SAC), the 11-member body consists largely of military officials and is led by the military chief and coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. There are three civilians among the 11 council members. Two of them – the head of the New National Democracy Party, U Thein Nyunt and the head of the National Democratic Force, U Khin Maung Swe – are members of the parties seen as political enemies of the overthrown NLD.
Former Karen National League leader Padoh Mahn Nyein Maung, who was an unsuccessful candidate for a Lower House seat representing Pantanaw County of Ayeyarwady District for the Karen People’s Party in last year’s general election. U Thein Nyunt and U Khin Maung Swe are former NLD members who left the party to participate in the military-held 2010 elections and served as members of Parliament until 2015. Myanmar’s government hospital staff in several major cities are planning to organize civil disobedience against the military Wednesday after Monday’s coup.
Medical staff said they would go on strike and protest the coup peacefully. As a member of the campaign, Dr. Hein Wint War said, “We can only save some of the lives of our patients while on duty. But if we remain silent about the coup, hundreds of people will lose hope every day under the military dictatorship. ” On Tuesday, several medical staff from public hospitals in Naypyitaw, Mandalay, Yangon, Pyay, Bago, Myawaddy, Kyaukse, Monywa, Sagaing, Pyin Oo Lwin, Magwe and Nyaung U made statements condemning the coup that took power from an elected government. . In the statements, it was stated that the army ignored the will of the people and formed a new government. They said the medical staff would organize a civil disobedience movement from Wednesday, as they did not want to serve an unelected government formed by the military.