On the morning of 1st February of 2021, the Myanmar Army took control of the country by a coup d’état and removed the democratically elected government from power.
Here’s a list of events that followed- the citizens reaction to the coup, the protests and the treatment of the protesters by the army.
Background and Motive:
The Coup happened after the General Election of 8th November, 2020. In the election, current ruling party the National League for Democracy (NLD) won 396 out of 476 seats in parliament, a landslide victory with a larger margin then the general election or 2015. The military proxy party won only 33 seats.
A few days before the coup, the civilian-appointed Union Election Commission had categorically rejected the military’s claims of voter fraud. The military claimed voter fraud in over 314 townships adding up-to 8.6 irregularities. The military has posited that alleged voter fraud threatened national sovereignty.
The exact motive of the coup is still unclear and one or the speculation is the coup may have been driven by the military’s goal to preserve its influence in the central politics of the country. Currently the country has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for the chief of army staff which would have resulted in the current chief of staff and leader of 2021 coup Min Aung Hlaing forced to retire. Since the president of the civilian government has the sole power of appointing the chief of army staff, Min Aung Hlaing feared that this would give the government an opportunity to appoint a more reformed officer as chief of army staff. He also feared that the retirement would make him vulnerable to persecution for the Rohingya Genocide that he carried out a few years earlier.
On 2 February 2021, Min Aung Hlaing established the State Administration Council, with 11 members, as the executive governing body.
On 3 February 2021, Myanmar police filed criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of violating the Export and Import Law, for allegedly importing unlicensed communications devices used by her security detail, after conducting a raid on her home in the capital.
On 6 February 2021, Sean Turnell, the Australian economic advisor to the civilian government, was arrested.
On 8 February 2021 and 9 February 2021, the military government issued orders to impose curfew from 8:00 pm to 4:00 am in Yangon and other major cities and restrict gatherings of 5 or more people in the public spaces.
On 9 February 2021, the NLD’s headquarters in Yangon was raided by Myanmar police. Myanmar military regime distributed a draft for the controversial Cyber Security Law to internet service providers, asking them to provide comments by 15 February 2021. The law was widely criticized by IT communities as it violates human rights by putting citizens under digital surveillance and severely restricting freedom of speech.
News of China’s involvement in building the firewall were widely circulated among Myanmar social media users, which prompts protestors to demonstrate outside the Chinese Embassy. China denied the news as rumors.
On 10 February 2021, civil servant at Kayah State protested against the coup, which also included police officers stationed there when they refused orders from their superior to return back to work.
On 12 February 2021, at midnight, members of Myanmar’s military and police arrested government ministers, election officials, senior members of the NLD, activists, and a former general.
On 13 February 2021, a viral post online showed that the military-run Ministry of Information (MOI) pressured the press not to use the words “junta” and “regime” in the media in the military’s first attempt to restrict the freedom-of-press. The military regime issued an arrest warrant for seven well-known activists and influencers including Min Ko Naing for using their fame to spread writing and speaking on the social media that would disturb the nation’s peace process.
On 15 February 2021, the military deployed armored vehicles across the cities, in an attempt to silence the demonstrations in the country. Thousands of protestors in different cities across Myanmar had been calling for the release of Suu Kyi. On 16 February, as protests continued, Aung San Suu Kyi was given a new criminal charge on allegations of violating the country’s National Disaster Law.
On 17 February 2021, the military issued arrest warrants on six more celebrities for urging civil servants to join the civil disobedience movement.
On 26 February 2021, the Myanmar ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, condemned the coup by the Tatmadaw. He was sacked from his post the next day.
Since then, the civilians have been protesting on the street, demanding democracy. Many have been killed after protesters were shot by the authorities and today (March 4) was the deadliest day for the protesters with 38 person reportedly killed today.
Domestic: The civilian have taken the street in protest of the coup. Their protest also includes including acts of civil disobedience, labor strikes, a military boycott campaign, a pot-banging movement, a red ribbon campaign, public protests, and formal recognition of the election results by elected representatives.
The protesters were also active on social media despite the military’s blockade on the internet. protesters used hashtags such as #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar, and #SaveMyanmar to let the world know what’s happening in their country.
International: Many countries, including Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Singapore, expressed concern in response to the coup, many of which encouraged dialogue between the government and the military in order to resolve the issue.
Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States on their part condemned the coup and called for the release of detained officials; the White House also threatened to impose sanctions on coup perpetrators. Subsequently, President Biden approved an Executive Order for new sanctions on the coup perpetrators which would enable his administration to affect the perpetrator’s business interests and close family members.” President Biden also stated that he would freeze $1 billion US assets belonged to the Myanmar’s government while maintaining support for health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly.”