Myanmar Protest: Youth Send Military a Message

Date: 2021-02-19 04:30:54

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Meet KT, a protester in Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement. He explains what’s happening in Myanmar and how demonstrators are learning tactics from their Asian neighbors like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. A decade after Myanmar’s highly praised opening to the outside world following decades of military rule, the armed forces are back in power. Three months after Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the country’s modern founder, secured a third landslide election victory, the generals are disputing the vote and have detained Suu Kyi again — setting off major street protests. It’s another blow for the nascent democracy after accusations of genocide against the country’s Muslim Rohingya population triggered international outcry. It comes as optimism over the economic dream following the lifting of sanctions by the U.S. and Europe had begun to fade even before the pandemic.

Was there a coup? Yes. A spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party used the term after the military on Feb. 1 detained Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, declared a state of emergency and said it was seizing power for a year. The military — known as the Tatmadaw — said the 2008 constitution allows it to take power during a state of emergency that could threaten the union or “national solidarity.” The military had said it wasn’t contesting the outcome of the Nov. 8 election but “finds the process of the 2020 election unacceptable.” The U.S. State Department a day later officially designated it a coup, which triggers restrictions on U.S. aid.

Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy won more than 80% of available seats, according to officially certified results. (The military is guaranteed 25% of seats under the 2008 constitution, which gives it an effective veto over any amendments.) The military and its political factions have demanded authorities investigate allegations of 8.6 million instances of voter fraud, which would amount to almost a quarter of the electorate. Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said in January that the military had observed more than 1 million duplicate votes. The Supreme Court took arguments on Jan. 29 but hasn’t decided whether to hear the case.

The election commission on Jan. 28 defended the vote as held in accordance with the law and transparent, and rejected allegations of fraud. Prior to the state of emergency, Myo Nyunt, a member of the NLD’s central executive committee, said it was “inappropriate” for the military to continue pushing its claims after the elections results had been certified. International observers largely gave the elections a clean bill of health. The U.S., U.K., Australia, European Union and other diplomatic missions in the country urged the military not to try to alter the outcome.

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