Myanmar Coup

BACKGROUND OF MYANMAR COUP

With the coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Army, took over the administration of the civil government from the National League for Democracy (NPL) headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the elections on November 8, 2020, with an overwhelming majority. Except for the concern of the army losing its privileges with the 2008 Constitution; There are also opinions arguing that this is due to a conflict between the USA and China. In this study, the political background of the coup which happened in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar last month, the reason or reasons for the coup, and the attitude of the people of Myanmar towards the coup will be discussed.

When looking at the historical development of Myanmar (also known as Burma) is located in Southeast Asia. According to data given by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Myanmar is the 29th country in the least developed countries (UNCTAD). The government has been governed by military rule between 1966 and 2011 since gaining independence in 1948 (Encyclopædia Britannica). However, various sanctions were imposed in the 90s by the European Union and the United States against military rule due to the pressure they enforced  (Encyclopædia Britannica). In the following years, various “democratization attempts” were made, such as the release of around 200 political prisoners in 2001 and General Khin Nyunt’s appointment as prime minister in 2003 by the Military Rule (Encyclopædia Britannica).

The 2008 constitution of Myanmar, which still stands today, is a structure that allows the military to have a leading role in government. According to this Constitution, it has been stated that there will be two assemblies, House of Nationalities and House of Representatives (Encyclopædia Britannica), which are in charge of the legislature, and at least 1/4 of the members of each of these assemblies should be appointed by the army (Human Rights Watch, 2008) . Besides, the fact that the army makes up at least a quarter of the Parliament allows it to impact decisions to be taken in the Parliament  (Human Rights Watch, 2008) . The 2008 Constitution entered into force in 2010 (Encyclopædia Britannica).

The civilian government established in 2011 under General U Thein Sein’s leadership, and the military regime has partially replaced by democracy. The fact that a significant portion of the government is of military origin and the authority of the 2008 Constitution continued in this process (T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı)

In the parliamentary elections held in the country in 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi came to power. However, according to Article 59(f) of the Myanmar Constitution does not allow if husband/wife or children of someone has citizenship of a country other than Myanmar has no right to became a president, Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband and children are UK citizens (Constitution of Myanmar, art. 59,  para. f) (T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı). Therefore instead of being president, she was authorized as state counselor corresponding to the prime minister (T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı). 

By 2016, there was a conflict between the Muslim minority known as Rohingya in Rakhine State and the Myanmar security forces. The two groups came face to face after a Rohingya origin terrorist group attacked the Myanmar security forces. And with the security forces, the Army of Myanmar’s intervention concluded with a large amount of Rohingya population leaving the region, and a refugee problem began for neighboring countries (Caspian Report, 2017). crimes against humanity committed by the Myanmar Defense Forces in the region were confirmed by United Nations investigators who went to the area to investigate the issue. However, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, rejected the United Nations report, and the government did not allow another review group to enter Myanmar (Caspian Report, 2017). However, according to the 2008 Constitution, the Army budget and the Ministries of Interior, Defense, and Border Affairs are obliged to consist of members of the army (Caspian Report, 2017) (Drury, 2021).

By March 2020, the NLD launched constitutional amendments to reform the 2008 constitution, restricting the number of seats the army has set and emergency powers. But the fact that there is still a 25% Army majority in Parliament and the proposal, which restricts the forces of the army is rejected by Parliament (Encyclopædia Britannica).

In the parliamentary elections held on November 8, 2020, the NLD won overwhelmingly against the army-backed State Peace and Development Council (USDP). In 2018, as a result of attacks on the Muslim minority in Rakhine, Amnesty International withdrew the Ambassador of conscience title, which they had given her in 2009 (BBC News, 2018) had a negative influence on her prestige. However, Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD received 83% of the vote (Reuters, 2021). Against the poll results, the USDP appealed to the Union Election Commission (UEC), declaring that the election was rigged (Drury, 2021). However, the UEC rejected the USDP’s request to renew the elections, saying there was insufficient evidence for this claim and based on both international and local election observations. Against this situation, the army requested the postponement of the opening of Parliament, but the government rejected the army’s demand (Encyclopædia Britannica).

On January 27 2021, Myanmar’s Chief of staff, Min Aung Hlaing, declared that the Constitution could be dissolved if the laws were not properly enforced (Sputnik, 2021). Although this statement may be seen as a closed coup threat, he stated on January 30 that his statements were not a coup threat (Sputnik, 2021).

However, with the planned opening date of the Parliament on February 1, 2021, Tatmadaw attempted a coup against the Civil Government. This coup attempt was successful, and Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leading NLD members were arrested (Encyclopædia Britannica). In this way, the civil government ongoing in Myanmar since 2011 has come to an end (Encyclopædia Britannica). 

The Tatmadaw issued Proclamation 9/2021 on February 2 after the coup d’état, but the Constitution of 2008 was amended to act 419. He established the State Administrative Council to replace the current government (Myanmar Times, 2021). They also announced that the detention of politicians such as Aung San Suu Kyi is because of their involvement in election rigging and declared a 1-year state of emergency in Myanmar (Sputnik, 2021). 

Some expert views claim that the coup in Myanmar is that conflicts of interest in the region cause China and the USA. (İncekaya, 2021) According to this idea, the main reason for the United States’ concerns about the civil regime in Myanmar is that it does not want to see China as an active actor in the region and, in a way, likes to push China to corner. (İncekaya, 2021)

The location of Myanmar is also of strategic importance for China, which is another critical factor in the region. This is because 82% of China’s crude oil imports and 30% of natural gas imports pass through the Malacca Strait (Caspian Report, 2017). From China’s Yunnan region to Myanmar’s Arakan Region, the Sino-Myanmar Pipeline to meet the sea in the Bay of Bengal is crucial under construction. It will reduce China’s dependence on the Malacca Strait in maritime trade (Caspian Report, 2017). 

During the coup, the Myanmar Army had bumped off the internet and telephone connections in the capital Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, the country’s most populous city and its trade centre. After Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD members were arrested, the state television broadcasts were also suspended (Reuters, 2021).  

Against the coup, Aung San Suu Kyi predicted and tried to create a movement for the army to take the civil government by inviting the public to fight against the Army rule with a pre-written Facebook post (Reuters, 2021). 

After the army took control, many Myanmars went out to the streets and protested. The protest ends against the military, such as Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians’ release. In these protests, it is stated that nearly 50 protesters died due to the disproportionate use of force by the police (The Diplomat, 2021).

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that he condemned this situation of the military coup in Myanmar; he also made a statement about “how the military should respect the preferences of the citizens, mentioned the security forces shouldn’t arrest people for arbitrary reasons, and intervention with disproportionate force is unacceptable” (UN News, 2021). 

The UK and Canada announced that, towards the military coup in Myanmar, military governors’ travel allowances have disaffirmed as a sanction. Likewise, with the trading restrictions that the US implemented, it reacts towards the military junta within the country in international fields and. Disproportionate use of force (Kimball & Nunley, 2021) (Aljazeera, 2021). 

In conclusion, the causes of a military coup against the civil government happened in Myanmar, other than a group’s, who doesn’t want to give up on substantial authority, moves to maintain the control; furthermore, expert opinions are available, as two major powers may have policies that they apply to protect their interests (İncekaya, 2021). 

Prepared by Alkin Arikan for The FEAS Journal SRDA.


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