Myanmar’s military staged a coup d’état (French for “overthrow of state,” or an illegal seizure of power) yesterday. Officials of the Southeast Asian nation detained senior politicians, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. For many, Monday’s takeover is confirmation that the military holds ultimate power—despite the appearance of democracy in Myanmar.
The first signs that the military planned to seize power were reports that State Counsellor Suu Kyi and Win Myint, the country’s president, had been detained before dawn.
Military-owned Myawaddy TV announced that the military is seizing control of the country. Officials claim the action is necessary because the government did not act on the military’s claims of fraud in November’s elections. In that contest, Suu Kyi’s ruling party won a majority of the parliamentary seats. Military officials cite a section of the constitution they wrote. The wording allows the military to take control in times of national emergency.
Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, says that in addition to Suu Kyi and the president, members of the party’s Central Executive Committee, many of its lawmakers, and other senior leaders went into military custody.
The takeover came the very morning the country’s new parliamentary session was to begin. The country lost television signals. Phone and internet access went down in Naypyitaw, the capital, and passenger flights were grounded.
The seizure was a dramatic backslide for Myanmar. The country had been emerging from more than 50 years of strict military rule and international isolation.
It was a shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate. Suu Kyi had lived under house arrest for years as she tried to push her country toward democracy. She became a strong leader in Myanmar after her party won elections in 2015.
Suu Kyi was a fierce opponent of the army’s claims to authority. However, she had to work with the country’s generals, who never fully gave up power. She remained wildly popular at home. But her relationship with the old regime—such as defending their crackdown on Rohingya Muslims (see “Rohingya Persecution in Myanmar”)—has left her global reputation in tatters.
The current coup presents a test for the international community. World leaders had shunned Myanmar while it was under military rule. But many enthusiastically embraced Suu Kyi’s government as a sign that the country was finally on the path to democracy. There will likely be calls for renewed global sanctions against the country.
As word of the military’s actions spreads, there is a growing sense of unease among Myanmar citizens. Lines are forming at ATMs as people wait to take out cash, their efforts complicated by internet disruptions. Workers at some businesses have gone home.
Suu Kyi’s party released a statement on one of its Facebook pages saying the military’s actions were unjustified and went against the constitution and the will of voters. The statement urges people to oppose Monday’s “coup” and any return to “military dictatorship.”
The military’s actions have received international criticism. Many countries are calling for the release of the detained leaders.
A military TV report says Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing is now in charge of the country. Vice President Myint Swe is acting president. Myint Swe is a former general best known for leading a brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks in 2007.
The military claims an election will be held in a year and that it will then hand power over to the winner.
He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the Earth. — Daniel 4:35
(Myanmar’s Vice President Myint Swe, right, smiles while sitting with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, left, and then-President Htin Kyaw during a photo session in Myanmar in 2017. AP/Aung Shine Oo)