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The Myanmar Coup

 Myanmar’s military,
the Tatmadaw, seized control of Myanmar on February 1, 2021, detaining the
country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party that
won the November 2020 elections, citing election fraud, a claim that was refuted
by t
he UEC (United Elections
Commission of Myanmar). 

Military coups are not unknown to Myanmar, having
spent more than 50 years under military rulers - i
t was the military that facilitated
Myanmar’s transformation to democracy by drafting the 2008 Constitution, touted
as a ‘roadmap to democracy.' But it only created an institutional set-up prone to misuse wherein the Burmese Constitution ensured the
military of its supremacy in national affairs, with a political
party that contested elections as its proxy. The
results of the 2020 election gave the NLD a majority significantly bigger compared
to previous elections, serving as a mandate for potential constitutional
reform and dismantling military rule.

All of this was effectively undone by the events of February, with mass arrests of political leaders and
internet blackouts and the establishment of an executive body called the State
Administration Council lead exclusively by military leaders and non-NDP
civilians, and it isn’t likely that the
Tatmadaw will abide by its promise of holding a new election anytime
soon. However, there is still hope for a change in the status quo, with massive
resistance from Burmese both within Myanmar and outside it and large mobilizations
and strikes by healthcare workers, civil se
rvants and industrial
workers, with calls for boycotting products related to
the military through the ‘Stop Buying Junta Business’ campaign. A visible sign of the protests is the three-finger salute that was also
seen in October last year at demonstrations against the monarchy of King Maha
Vajiralongkorn in neighboring Thailand, and the usage of red ribbons as symbols
of solidarity. 

The international response has been quite strong with the
United States embassy and diplomatic missions of 15 other countries and the
European Union issuing a joint statement ‘opposing any attempt to
alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition.' Nevertheless, the fight for Burmese democracy has spanned many
bloody decades of protest, and the military coup has not yet undone all the substantial
gains made by the movement for democracy.

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