Can a coup end democracy?

Myanmar state of emergency

The 1st of February in Myanmar, general Min Aung Hlaing, leader of the country’s militia also known as Tatmadaw, seized a coup d’État. This event has raised a lot of astonishment, as since 2011 Myanmar has been under a democratic regime. From 2015 the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Aung Sang Suu Kyi fought for the protection of Human Rights, against the ruthless campaign of the army. In fact, even if a civilian government was set up after 50 years having the military at the power, the latter still has a quarter of seats in parliament, including also important ministries as the ones of defense, home affairs and border affairs. However, after the accusation of the Rohingya genocide from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), supporters of Suu Kyi began to accuse her of not revenging serious crimes against humanity such as rape and murder, not stopping the military party to practice atrocities, as she always promised. 

When at the beginning of 2021 new elections were held, the NLD won again, but the opposition accused of fraud the results and asked for a rerun of vote. Something that never actually happened. For this main reason, profiting also from the outbreak of Covid – 19, Aung Sang Suu Kyi and other politicians were imprisoned by the opposition. They were mostly accused of violating health measures required for the pandemic crisis, of publishing information that could unnecessarily cause fear among people and also to possess illegal walkie talkies. Yet, Min Aung Hlaing, after having seized the coup, declared a political crisis in Myanmar. The general justified his actions arguing that this was all going in favor of a “true and disciplined democracy”, and that “free and fair” elections will be held after the state of emergency will be over.

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But are the military groups really helping people? Is Hlaing sure about what the Myanmar’s population want and does he know what is best for this country? Well, the protests that started in these last days do not seem to ensure this large support. Since the seize of power, a curfew was established, as well as limits to gatherings and other types of restrictions, not actually following a prosperous democratic path. In such a situation, a lot of people came down to the streets to protest, starting from teachers and workers arriving also to the youngest ones. For an entire month, protestors have asked for the liberation of the NLD exponents and for the return of a civilian government. 

This last Monday a post – coup crackdown erupted. The military forces revoked the licenses to five independent media companies right before a new standoff of numerous young protesters in Yangon. During that same day, in order to celebrate International Women’s Day, protesters used their Htamains – in English sarongs – to revenge their rights. Moreover, some activists realized that around late afternoon they were all trapped in a small area by the army, so that it could be easier to fight and stop them. 

“Three streets had been blocked by police and soldiers. Even though the owners of the building were ordinary people who live in Sanchaung, even these people were not allowed to go out” as activist Maung Saungkha explained to CNN reporters. 

That night 27 citizens were arrested in Sanchuang, and since the protest has begun a lot of people, adults and teenagers, were killed or injured. These are just some examples of the brutality that the military troops guided by Min Aung Hlaing are doing in Myanmar right now. Even if the UN is trying to prevent this situation to do not happen again and again, the already gone democratic regime seems impossible to ever come back. Democracy is at risk, and during such a health world crisis it is much easier to profit and seize the power. 

Written by Ludovica Pilloni



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