The Army in Myanmar carried out a coup on Monday. Head of government Aung San Suu Kyi, and other prominent members of the party have been arrested. What’s going on?
According to the army, the ruling party NLD has been guilty of electoral fraud. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won last year’s election by a large majority. The result was disappointing for the army-backed party. The army says that irregularities were detected during the elections, but observers say that this is not the case.
Aung San Suu Kyi won the first democratic elections in the country since the 1960s, after the end of military rule in 2011. The army did retain some of the power. For example, a quarter of Parliament is made up of military personnel. As a result of the outcome of the second elections, the army must once again relinquish some of its power.
The relationship between the government and the army was put under pressure by the allegations of electoral fraud. Tensions were high in the run-up to the first session of the new parliament. Parliament was to meet for the first time this Monday. A few hours before that, Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders of NLD were arrested. Later in the day the ministers were replaced.
The fact that the army is now back in power is celebrated exuberantly by some Burmese. But not everyone is happy with the coup. Aung San Suu Kyi is loved in her own country because of her struggle for democracy and resistance to the military junta that kept her in home detention for 15 years. In 1991, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The vote in november last year was also seen as a referendum on Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratic rule. After the announcement of the results, NLD’s spokesman spoke of a “crushing” victory, which shows that Myanmar citizens still have faith in Aung San Suu Kyi. She received a lot of criticism internationally for allegations of genocide against the Rohingyas, but that seems to have little impact on her popularity in Myanmar.
The army reports that the power has been handed over to General Min Aung Hlaing. A state of emergency has been declared for the coming year, as the sovereignty of democracy would be threatened. That is possible under the Constitution. According to the army, this is necessary until the problems with the elections are resolved.
The NLD declares that the Army wants to turn the country into a dictatorship again, but the army claims to want to restore democracy. On Facebook, the NLD calls on people to oppose a military coup, but no member of the party has confirmed this message.
The action of the army has now been condemned by many countries – both neighbouring and Western. The European Union also wants the detainees to be released and the results of the elections to be respected.