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The powerful Myanmar military has seized power by staging a coup and detained democratically elected leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi. The army has declared a state of emergency for one year after claiming voter fraud in the elections last year and bringing the country back under a dictatorship.
This is the first time the Myanmar military has staged a coup d’état against a civilian government since 1962 and in an apparent violation of the constitution which the military formed to maintain control. The army retains a quarter of the seats to prevent Suu Kyi’s NLD party from gaining an outright majority. During the election last November, the state-back party performed poorly as people defied the coronavirus pandemic and voted for her by a landslide.
Myanmar was ruled by the armed forces until 2011 when democratic reforms led by Aung San Suu Kyi ended military rule. She spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010 was internationally hailed as a beacon of democracy. But her international reputation suffered severely following a brutal army crackdown on Muslim Rohingyas as she refused to condemn the military or even acknowledge the atrocities. Now the military which she vociferously defended has usurped power and she finds little sympathy or support.
US President Joe Biden has threatened to reimpose sanctions on the country for the direct assault on the transition to democracy and rule od law. The Myanmar crisis marks Biden’s first challenge to curtail China’s rising influence in the region. Myanmar has immense oil wealth and the military is emboldened by Chinese support. It will be hard to contemplate what actions the international community will take aside from sanctions to pressure the Myanmar military. The army is immensely influential living in a bizarre capital while the nation has seen 50 years of oppression and millions live in abject poverty.
It is certain that the path to democracy has been derailed and is unlikely to be repaved anytime soon. Though Suu Kyi still remains overwhelmingly popular at home, it is unlikely she would gain power anytime soon. A military coup should be condemned in all forms and manifestation irrespective of where it takes place. The role of the international community is crucial as the military action is rather reckless as it put Mynamar on a perilous path.