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Democracy Under Attack

A nation was torn apart by a pandemic and plagued with confusing election results. However this time, we are not talking about the United States.

The country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was taken over in a coup d’etat last Monday. The military took Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy along with several other prisoners then handed power to General Min Aung Hlaing in her stead. However, the military does not view their actions as a coup. They believe they are in the right, citing a section of the nation’s 2008 constitution allowing a year-long military takeover in the event of a national emergency.

The emergency? A combination of the coronavirus pandemic and fraudulent election results.

Myanmar held elections in November, and this week was supposed to be their first session of Parliament with their new representatives. Suu Kyi’s party, The National League for Democracy, won 83% of the seats for this session. The military did not see those numbers as valid.

After arguing in the Supreme Court that the results were artificial, the military made threats, and eventually surrounded the houses of Parliament, resulting in the detention of Ms. Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and many others. This takeover has set the forward-moving nation back quite a bit. Myanmar had only been under democratic rule since 2011; before that, there was a 49-year stint of military leadership overseeing the country.

With General Min Aung Hlaing back in power, the military has already started making dramatic changes to ensure the people stay under their firm control. Phone lines and internet have been shut down, banks were closed, television broadcasts were shut down and flights were canceled.

The citizens of Myanmar reacted as one may expect: they panicked. In a frightened frenzy, they rushed to withdraw money from ATMs and stock up on food and other necessities at their local stores, much like the scenes witnessed across the United States over the course of last year.

From outside the borders of Myanmar, reactions have been mixed. Their largest neighbor, China, left a neutral statement, suggesting they will let the nation figure things out for itself. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has threatened “sanctions”, although there were no specifics as to how or where adjustments plan to be made yet. Finally, Antonio Guterres of the United Nations and other leaders from around the world echo sentiments of the need for democracy and freedom. As citizens, we can only wish them all the best in sorting through their civil insurrection and hope that the military respects the terms of the new constitution and relinquishes control when the year is up if not sooner.


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