The British ruled the subcontinent and held sway over the geographical areas that later became Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Burma (named Myanmar later). Myanmar was taken over by its military under General Ne Win who succeeded in isolating the country from rest of the world. The civilian prime minister Aung San was removed and got killed in the process. His daughter Suu Kyi picked up the mantle of her father and mounted a legendary struggle against military rule in her country. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign but became tainted after she kept quiet when the Rohingya genocide took place in Myanmar.
Suu Kyi finally succeeded in getting democracy restored and Myanmar was governed by Suu Kyi’s civilian government yet the military had retained control of the most important ministries and security forces. Now the Myanmar’s military has seized power after detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders. Communications are limited, troops are patrolling the streets and a one-year state of emergency has been declared. Later, the military announced that 24 ministers and deputies had been removed, and 11 replacements had been named, including in finance, health, the interior and foreign affairs. In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention by the army will be seen as a return to the dark days of oppressive military rule. Governments around the world condemn Myanmar’s military coup calling for the restoration of Myanmar’s democracy.
The youngest daughter of Aung San known as father of the nation Suu Kyi worked at the United Nations for three years. She married Michael Aris in 1962 with whom she had two children. Aung San Suu Kyi rose to prominence in the 1988 uprisings and became the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy (NLD) that she had newly formed with the help of several retired army officials who criticised the military junta. In the 1990 elections NLD won 81% of the seats in Parliament but the results were nullified, as the military refused to hand over power, resulting in an international outcry. She had, however, already been detained under house arrest before the elections. She remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010, becoming one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners.
Her party boycotted the 2010 elections resulting in a decisive victory for the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Aung San Suu Kyi became an MP while her party won 43 of the 45 vacant seats in the 2012 by-elections. In 2015 elections, her party won a landslide victory taking 86% of the seats in the Assembly of the Union, much more than the 67% supermajority needed to ensure that its preferred candidates were given power. Although she was prohibited from becoming the President due to a clause in the constitution – her late husband and children are foreign citizens – she assumed the newly created role of State Counselor, a role akin to a Prime Minister or head of the government.
Since ascending to the office of State Counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi has drawn criticism from several countries, organisations and figures over Myanmar’s inaction in response to the genocide of the Rohingyas and refusal to accept that Myanmar’s military has committed massacres. Under her leadership, Myanmar has also drawn criticism for prosecutions of journalists. In 2019, Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in the ICJ where she defended Burmese military against allegations of genocide against the Rohingya. Tensions between the civilian government and the military are in some ways built into the constitutional structure of Myanmar’s politics. The current constitution, drafted and forced through by the ruling junta in 2008, safeguards the military’s central role in Myanmar’s political life, granting it control of a quarter of parliamentary seats and three of the most important ministries.
The Suu Kyi government and the military had a deep mistrust between Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing. Despite being the two most important figures in Myanmar politics, the two have barely exchanged words in years. The 2008 constitution allows the military chief to assume and exercise state sovereignty with the permission of the president during states of emergency that could cause the disintegration of the union. It does not condone military coups, however.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won the 8 November, 2020 elections by a landslide and the 75-year-old Suu Kyi was set to launch her second five-year term in late March. The army and its political proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, have contended for weeks that there was widespread voter fraud and have increased pressure on the Union Election Commission to investigate. Neither the military nor the USDP have submitted any evidence of actual voter fraud. In response to talk about a coup, the UEC issued a statement insisting that elections were devoid of fraud as alleged by the military, despite some voter list errors which it said it would investigate. In a six-page statement the UEC stated that it was investigating 287 complaints but that on the whole, voting was conducted fairly and transparently. To most outside observers, the result of the election was about as decisive as it gets. Driven by the enormous popularity of its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won 315 of the 440 seats in the lower house of the Union Parliament and 161 of the 224 seats in the upper house. In total, the NLD won an astounding 83.2 per cent of those seats up for election. The Myanmar Supreme Court began a preliminary hearing of an election-related petition filed in early January by the opposition USDP and the Democratic Party of National Politics accusing the government and national election authorities of electoral fraud.
The tensions mounted before the 1 February opening of Myanmar’s parliament, which was elected but the military called it fraudulent. Military vehicles and troops were seen around the capital this week. Alarmed at a string of veiled threats of a coup by Myanmar’s military over alleged voting fraud many Western diplomatic missions called on the army to reject attempts to alter the outcome of the 2020 elections. Earlier this week, military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing broached the topic of a possible coup and the abolishment of the constitution amid rising political tensions over the electoral dispute. Meanwhile, local media reports said two high-ranking military officers met with NLD government officials over the dispute but that the meeting was unsuccessful, and the ruling party rejected the military’s demand to delay the 1 February opening of the new parliament.
The embassies of Australia, 12 European countries, the EU diplomatic mission to Myanmar, New Zealand, and the United States expressed their apprehensions on the grounds that intervention by the military is troubling to many in Myanmar, which endured brutal, corrupt military rule and international pariah status from 1962-2011, when it began a transition to democratic rule. A day earlier, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres expressed “great concern” over the military’s words and urged all parties to desist from any form of incitement, adhere to democratic norms and respect the election outcome. TW