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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Military coup in Myanmar


What is the recent political history of Myanmar? 

After gaining independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar, then known as Burma, was ruled by military forces until 2012. In 2015, former State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi’s, National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide election, ushering in  a civilian-led government. 

Myanmar held a general election on Nov. 8, 2020, continuing the democratic electoral process. One thousand one hundred seventy one national, state and regional seats were up for election, according to the Myanmar Times. Suu Kyi’s government won in a landslide victory. The NLD’s primary opposition in the election was the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). 

In 2017, the Myanmar military cracked down on  Rohingya Muslims (one of many  ethnic minorities in Myanmar) after Rohingya militants attacked police posts. The ensuing violence and conflict forced thousands of  Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the Rohingya as “one of, if not the most, discriminated people in the world.”

In 2019 Suu Kyi appeared before the International Court of Justice where she  denied allegations that the military committed genocide against the Rohingya. The United Nations concluded in 2019 “that the evidence that infers genocidal intent on the part of the State…has strengthened, that there is a serious risk that genocidal actions may occur or recur.”

Myanmar does not consider Rohingya in the Rakhine state—where most Rohingya are located—citizens of Myanmar. Rohingya  have been denied the vote since 2015, and continue to be disenfranchised.

What happened after the Nov. 8 election?

The USDP pushed for a recount of the vote after claiming widespread election fraud. On Feb. 1, the military in Myanmar forcibly seized power and detained Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior figures from the NLD. 

In the midst of countrywide protests against the coup, the military declared a year-long state of emergency, giving leadership authority to army chief Min Aung Hlaing, who has been condemned by the international community for his role in the Rohingya genocide. As of Feb. 7, internet access, which was previously cut, has been restored, but access to social media outlets remains blocked and is under military surveillance. 

What is the international response? 

The United States: U.S. President Joe Biden denounced the military coup in Myanmar, asking for unity within the international community to press the military to relinquish power and calling their actions a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.” 

“In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” Biden wrote in a Feb. 1 White House statement. 

The Vatican: Pope Francis has called for harmony in Myanmar and expressed his “solidarity with the people” in the state. 

“I pray that those in positions of responsibility in the country show sincere willingness to serve the common good, promoting social justice and national stability for a harmonious and democratic co-existence,” Pope Francis said on Feb. 7 during his Sunday address in St. Peter’s Square. 

The United Nations: Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General, said in a press release on Jan. 31 that Guterres “strongly condemns” the military coup in Myanmar. 

“The Secretary-General urges the military leadership to respect the will of the people of Myanmar and adhere to democratic norms, with any differences to be resolved through peaceful dialogue,” according to the press release. “All leaders must act in the greater interest of Myanmar’s democratic reform, engaging in meaningful dialogue, refraining from violence and fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

If you would like to donate to support the Rohingya, you can donate through the following organizations:

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