Military rejects will of the voters . . .
Yesterday, hours before Myanmar’s parliament was to begin a new term, the country’s military arrested more than 20 top civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. It also imposed a one-year state of emergency, closed airports, and disrupted telecommunications access. The coup comes three months after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in national elections, capturing 83 per cent of the parliament’s elected seats. The main opposition, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), performed dismally. The military and USDP have alleged electoral fraud – allegations widely rejected within and outside the country. Health-care workers and youth activist groups announced they will launch civil disobedience campaigns on Wednesday.
Motives becoming clearer . . .
The motives for the coup are somewhat murky. In writing the 2008 Constitution, the military granted itself significant powers: 25 per cent of the seats in parliament, control of key ministries, and profits from the country’s natural resources. There is speculation about the political ambitions of the man at the centre of the drama, military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. Specifically, it has been suggested that he was banking on a stronger USDP showing in the November election, which, combined with the military’s seats in parliament, would have been enough to appoint him president. Another theory is that he fears losing access to lucrative business opportunities or that he and his family members could face criminal liability once he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65 in July.
A world on edge . . .
The UN Security Council (UNSC) will hold a closed-door meeting today to discuss the issue, but veto-wielding China and Russia are unlikely to back any substantive action. However, the relationship between Beijing, which has considerable business and infrastructure interests in Myanmar, and Myanmar’s military, is less cosy than is sometimes portrayed. Moreover, Beijing would be wary of any coup-related instability that would jeopardize those interests. For Canada, the turn of events in Myanmar is of more than abstract interest. Ottawa is a key player in the International Court of Justice lawsuit charging the military with genocide against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority. The man behind the actions in question is none other than Min Aung Hlaing himself, something that is sure to complicate Canada-Myanmar relations.
- Al Jazeera: Why Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup
- The Guardian: Fears army will tighten grip in Myanmar
- The Irrawaddy: Myanmar medics prepare civil disobedience against military rule