A democracy since 2011, Myanmar’s government falls to police pressure
By Erin Albright, Staff Writer
Protests in the streets of Myanmar have continued for five consecutive days after the military staged a coup d’etat to overthrow the reelected democratic leadership early last week.
Myanmar, a Southeast Asian nation of 54 million, has been under civilian rule since 2011. Prior to that, the country was ruled by internal armed forces after gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy was reelected as President of Myanmar on Monday, Feb. 1. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former political prisoner, established the nation’s first civilian government. She spent the last six years leading the country and won the recent election by a landslide.
Power was quickly seized by the military, causing civilians to turn to the streets to protest the unjust rule. Military officials detained government leaders, including Suu Kyi, who was placed under house arrest.
The military has declared a year-long state of emergency, as allowed by the nation’s constitution, citing its plans to hold a “free and fair” election once the state of emergency is over. Current leaders also cut internet services, restricted social media, limited print media and took news channels off the air.
The coup has caused the largest protests in the country since the Saffron Revolution in 2007 when thousands of monks rose up against the military regime. Hundreds of thousands have turned out in the past week to defend the nation’s fledgling democratic ideals.
Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing is now running the country. He has justified the military takeover as being on the side of the people in hopes of forming a “true and disciplined democracy,” despite the election being 83% in support of the National League for Democracy to be in rule.
Since the military last held power in 2011, Myanmar has had more social freedoms, greater foreign investment and a growing middle class. The country has spent the last decade opening up to the world and democratizing.
Police have taken to using increased force upon protestors, using rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to dull the crowds, noting that protests on Tuesday were the most violent yet. One woman was shot and is in critical condition. Hundreds of injuries have been reported but no deaths so far.
The demonstrations have gone against the recent ban on large gatherings as well as the recent night curfew that was put in place.
Families have taken to a traditional practice of banging on pots and pans at 8 p.m. each evening, an activity thought to “drive out the devil.” Others have worn red clothing and bandanas to signify their solidarity with Suu Kyi’s political party.
The neighboring countries of China, Japan, Singapore and Thailand view the coup as an “internal matter,” despite having great influence on the economy of Myanmar.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the coup a “serious blow to democratic reforms.” U.S. President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions.
The coup is said to have likely erased the nation’s work from the past 10 years against military rule.
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