- The Myanmar military seized control of the government on Monday and detained multiple top politicians, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
- Military officials said they are imposing a year-long state of emergency due to allegations of fraud in the November election, which gave Suu Kyi’s party 396 out of 476 seats in Parliament and the military’s proxy party just 33 seats.
- The military claimed they will oversee democratic multiparty elections once the state of emergency is over.
- Experts have expressed concerns that the coup is simply a pretext for the powerful military to reimpose their full influence over fledgling Democracy, which was under the rule of a military junta from 1962 until 2011.
Myanmar Military Coup
Myanmar’s military launched a full-blown coup Monday after detaining several senior politicians, including the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In an announcement read on a military-run TV station, officials said they had seized power, installed army chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing as the country’s new leader, and implemented a year-long state of emergency.
A spokesperson for Suu Kyi, as well as many international observers, have said it is an illegal military coup, but military officials have said their actions are legally justified under a section of the constitution they wrote that allows them to take power in times of national emergency.
They claim the move was necessary because the government had not acted on their claims of fraud in November’s election and allowed the vote to go ahead despite the pandemic.
During that election, which was widely viewed as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s leadership, her party had won 396 out of 476 seats in Parliament. The military’s proxy party, which only won 33 seats, claimed that there had been discrepancies like duplicated names on voting lists in many districts.
While military officials did not say if those irregularities were big enough to have changed the election outcome, they still argued that the election must be held again. Suu Kyi rejected those demands, and on the same day the new session of Parliament was set to begin, the military launched its takeover.
The military said it will oversee free and fair multiparty elections once the year-long state of emergency is over, but many experts are skeptical for a few reasons.
First, the military’s takeover of authority will prolong the power of Min Aung Hlaing, who is supposed to age out of his role this summer. Now, he has an incentive to stay in power, especially because his network of lucrative family businesses could be hurt by his retirement.
Additionally, the last time the country had a military coup was in 1962, and that resulted in the military holding power for nearly five decades until 2011, when they finally agreed to a transition that eventually led to Suu Kyi becoming the de facto leader in 2015.
At the time, the country had been celebrated as a rare example of military generals actually gave power to civilians, and Suu Kyi, who is also a Nobel laureate, was applauded as an international champion of human rights for her campaign against the military junta.
In recent years, she has lost a significant amount of international credibility and support because she has become one of the military’s biggest public defenders, even going so far as to defend their brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, which has been label a genocide by the U.N.
Now, many experts say they see the takeover as a confirmation that the military holds ultimate power, despite their claims of democracy, and that the coup is just a pretext for them to reinstate their full influence.
Regardless, the coup will present a test for international leaders, including President Joe Biden and his administration. Notably, the U.S. already has some sanctions in place on generals who have been implicated in the violence against the Rohingya, including Min Aung Hlaing, the country’s newly installed military leader.
On Monday, Biden threatened even more sanctions, issuing a statement where he called the coup a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.”
“The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack,” he added.
See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (The New York Times) (Reuters)
Convoy of Up to 1,000 Vehicles Evacuates Refugees From Mariupol as Russian War Effort Stalls
Russia may have lost a third of its ground invasion force since the war began, according to British military intelligence.
Hundreds Make It Out Alive
A convoy of between 500 and 1,000 vehicles evacuating refugees from the southern port city of Mariupol arrived safely in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday.
People have been trickling out of Mariupol for over two months, but the recent evacuation was the single biggest out of the city thus far. Russian troops, who control most of the city, did not allow the convoy to leave for days, but eventually, they relented.
The convoy first traveled to Berbyansky some 80 kilometers to the west, then stopped at other settlements before driving 200 kilometers northwest to Zaporizhzhia. Many refugees told reporters they took “secret detours” to avoid Russian checkpoints and feared every moment of the journey.
Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, told Reuters he had lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.
“We barely made it,” he said. “There were lots of elderly people among us… the trip was devastating. But it was worth it.”
63-year-old Iryna Petrenko also said she had stayed in Mariupol initially to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who subsequently died.
“We buried her next to her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.
Putin’s Plans Go Poorly
In Mariupol, Ukrainian fighters continue to hold the Azovstal steelworks, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.
On Sunday, a video emerged appearing to show a hail of projectiles bursting into white, brightly burning munitions over the factory.
The pro-Russian separatist who posted it on Telegram wrote, “If you didn’t know what it is and for what purpose – you could say that it’s even beautiful.”
Turkey is trying to negotiate an evacuation of wounded Ukrainians from the factory, but neither Russia nor Ukraine have agreed to any plan.
After nearly three months of war, Mariupol has been left in ruins, with thousands of civilians reportedly dead.
“In less than 3 month, Mariupol, one of Ukraine’s fastest developing & comfortable cities, was reduced into a heap of charred ruins smelling death, with thousands of people standing in long breadlines and selling their properties out to buy some food. Less than three months,” Illia Ponomarenko, a reporter for The Kyiv Independent, tweeted.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom’s defense ministry estimated that Russia has likely lost a third of its ground invasion forces since the war began.
Moscow is believed to have deployed as many as 150,000 troops in Ukraine.
The ministry added that Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have “lost momentum” and are “significantly behind schedule.” Moreover, it said Russia failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the last month while sustaining “consistently high levels of attrition.”
“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the ministry concluded.
Sweden also signaled on Sunday that it will join Finland in applying for NATO membership.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (U.S. News and World Report) (The Hill)
Israel Moves to Build Over 4,000 West Bank Settlements as Palestinian Homes Demolished
The Israeli military is proceeding with a plan to evict at least 1,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
Settlers Get Ready to Move in
On Thursday, a military planning body in the Israeli-occupied West Bank approved the construction of 4,427 housing units, according to the watchdog group Peace Now.
“The State of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” Hagit Ofran, an expert at Peace Now, said via the Associated Press.
The plan is the largest advancement of settlement projects since President Joe Biden took office in the United States.
The U.S. opposes settlement expansion and said as much when the plan was first announced last week, but critics say Washington has done little to pressure Israel to stop.
In a statement, U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland called the settlements a “major obstacle to peace.”
“Continued settlement expansion further entrenches the occupation, encroaches upon Palestinian land and natural resources, and hampers the free movement of the Palestinian population,” he said.
In October, Israel approved some 3,000 settlement homes despite a U.S. rebuke. There are currently over 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank harboring almost 500,000 settlers, in addition to the nearly three million Palestinians living in the territory.
Palestinians Pushed Off Their Land
On Wednesday, the same day Israeli soldiers allegedly shot and killed Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, the military demolished at least 18 buildings in the West Bank, including 12 residential ones.
Israel’s supreme court has also ruled that eight Palestinian hamlets can be expelled, potentially leaving at least 1,000 Palestinians homeless.
The area targeted is known as the Masafer Yatta, and its residents say they have been herding animals and practicing traditional desert agriculture there for decades, long before Israel took over the West Bank in 1967. Israel, however, claims there were no permanent structures there before the military designated it a firing zone in the 1980s
“What’s happening now is ethnic cleansing,” Sami Huraini, an activist and a resident of the area, told the Associated Press. “The people are staying on their land and have already started to rebuild.”
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Peace Now) (Associated Press)
Canada Accused of Killing Poor People with Assisted Death Law
Supporters of the practice argue that people suffering near the end of their lives should have the right to die.
Two Women Choose Death Over Life
A 31-year-old woman in Toronto known as Denise is nearing final approval for a medically-assisted suicide after failing to find affordable housing with accommodations for her disability.
She has a medical condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), so some common chemicals found in everyday objects like cigarette smoke, laundry detergent, and air fresheners can trigger nausea, blinding headaches, and even anaphylactic shock.
She has also used a wheelchair since injuring her spinal cord six years ago.
Unable to work, Denise lives off of $1,169 in disability stipends per month, putting her well below the poverty line.
Specialized housing where airflow is more controlled could ease her debilitating symptoms, but efforts to find such a location have failed.
Denise has said that she and her supporters have called 10 different agencies in Toronto over the past six months to locate housing with reduced chemical and smoke exposure as well as wheelchair accessibility to no avail. She told CTV News she chose assisted suicide instead “because of abject poverty.”
Denise’s case comes shortly after a similar one in February, when a 51-year-old woman known as Sophia, who also suffered from MCS, opted for assisted suicide.
Sophia spent the pandemic mostly confined to her apartment bedroom with the vents sealed because her neighbors smoked indoors and chemical cleaners were used in the hallways.
She and her friends, supporters, and doctors searched for safe and affordable housing for two years, even asking local, provincial and federal officials for help, but nothing worked.
Canadians Debate a Controversial Law
In 2015, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that parts of the criminal code prohibiting Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) must be revised, and the following year parliament passed a law legalizing the practice.
The legislation, designed to help people suffering near the end of their lives, allowed eligible adults to request medically assisted death through a doctor or physician.
In 2021, lawmakers expanded the criteria for assisted suicide to include people with certain extreme chronic illnesses and disabilities, even if they aren’t nearing the end of their life.
While supporters of the practice say it gives people the right to end their suffering in an easy and legal way, critics argue it has become a deadly last resort for society’s most vulnerable who require healthcare and housing.
Some experts argue that cases like Denise’s and Sophia’s are extreme, and the approval process for medical assistance in dying is stringent.
Chantal Perrot, a physician and MAID provider, told The Guardian their MCS would likely not have been treated well by better housing.
“The only treatment really for that is avoidance of all triggers,” she said. “That’s pretty much impossible to do in ordinary life. So better housing can create a temporary bubble for a person – but there’s no cure for this. We do this work because we believe in people’s right to an assisted death. It’s not always easy to do. But we know that patients need it and value it.”
A special joint parliamentary committee is currently deciding whether to expand MAID access to consenting children and those with mental illness.