ASEAN democracy foreign policy Myanmar politics

Myanmar Coup Rises Against Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's political history is marred is authoritarian regimes. Today's military coup against the civilian government signals more change.

Myanmar’s political history is marred in authoritarian regimes. Today’s military coup against the civilian government signals more change.

November 2019 saw the most recent nationwide elections in Myanmar. This January, the military declined to rule out any notion of a coup against the officially recognised authoritarian regime, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. This is a pivotal moment, not least because it unearths a potential vacuum in political stability for the former Burmese Military lead nation. An unstable political establishment has long bugged Myanmar. Post-British colonial rule in 1948, democracy ruled until 1962 when the Burmese military assumed leadership following a coup, placing the Burma Socialist Programme Party in control establishing a programme of socialism across the nation.

This recent action by the military to oust Aung San Suu Kyi is pivotal, for democracy to prevail, there needs to be a sense that the nationwide elections were free, fair, and valid. What happens next is hard to speculate, Myanmar’s military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has reportedly taken control of the country and has detained the ruling figures of the Aung San Suu Kyi government. The official line of communication to citizens is “the state of emergency is declared in accordance with article 417 of the 2008 constitution”.

Article 417 states:

If there arises or if there is sufficient reason for a state of emergency to arise that may disintegrate the Union or disintegrate national solidarity or that may cause the loss of sovereignty, due to acts or attempts to take over the sovereignty of the Union by insurgency, violence and wrongful forcible means, the President may, after co-ordinating with the National Defence and Security Council, promulgate an ordinance and declare a state of emergency. In the said ordinance, it shall be stated that the area where the state of 167 emergency in operation is the entire Nation and the specified duration is one year from the day of promulgation.

Although marred in controversy over her rule, the current Government headed by Aung San Suu Kyi represents a stable partial-democratic period since the reforms of the Burmese military rule. What will be important to uncover and understand, is the fundamental reasoning behind why now the military has acted, and how the public respond. It is not long since Aung San Suu Kyi faced the International Criminal Court at the Hague surrounding the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim population. Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine State also forced more than 700,000 people to flee and the United Nations estimates some 10,000 people were killed.

Uprising in this economically hard-hit nation comes with hardships for local civilians. Unlike the insurrection at the Capitol Building in the United States, following President Biden’s election win, Myanmar now faces a period of time where “disruptions to internet, phone networks and ATMs” may be affected, according to a statement release by The Foreign Office.

If Article 417 is taken as verbatim, this new period of instability may ensue for the next year. Understanding how the underlying support for Aung San Suu Kyi evolves will be crucial for a stable new-normal to engulf Myanmar, what is absolutely certain, is the people of Myanmar need to be listened to and have to be central to the future political direction the Military decide to move forward with.


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