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Myanmar Military Launches Coup, Detains Aung San Suu Kyi



  • 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.

Next Steps

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)


First Person Charged Under Hong Kong National Security Law Found Guilty of Terrorism and Inciting Secession



Dozens more are awaiting trial for breaking the controversial National Security Law, which is aimed at protecting Chinese sovereignty at the cost of basic freedoms within Hong Kong.

First Conviction Under National Security Law

The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s extremely controversial National Security Law was found guilty of his crimes Tuesday morning.

A judge ruled that Tong Ying-kit was guilty of both terrorism and inciting secession after the 24-year-old failed to stop at a police checkpoint while on his motorcycle last July, which resulted in him eventually riding into police. At the same time, he was carrying a flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”

According to Justice Esther Toh, that phrase alone was capable of inciting others to commit succession, she also that added that Tong understood that the flag had secessionist meaning in an effort to set aside doubts that Tong understood the flag’s inherent meaning.

Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director said,“The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong.”

“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.

More Convictions Expected Sparking Fear Over Erosion of Rights

A long string of convictions will likely follow Tong’s, as over 100 people have been arrested under the ambiguous law that criminalizes many forms of freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Chinese sovereignty. Of those arrested, 60 are currently awaiting trial, including dozens of pro-democracy politicians who have been accused of subversiveness for their calls to block the government’s agenda in the legislature.

That has drawn particular concern among international critics who fear the precedent that will be set once it’s clear to politicians that failing to rubber-stamp the Communist Party’s agenda will result in prison terms.

It’s widely expected that as more people are found guilty, the few remaining protections of the city’s Basic Law, a British common law-inspired mini-constitution, will be completely eroded.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (BBC)

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Tunisian President Fires Prime Minister, Suspends Parliament Over Deadlock and COVID-19 Response



President Kais Saied claims his actions are constitutional and have the support of the military, which has already blocked off government buildings. His opponents, however, call the move little more than a coup.

President Makes Massive Changes to Government

Tunisia’s government received a major shakeup after President Kais Saied fired the Prime Minister and froze parliament late Sunday.

The move, according to Saied, was meant to break years of parliamentary deadlock between Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and various political parties that have sturggled to find common ground. However, the timing comes just after a massive protest over how the government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic turned violent earlier on Sunday.

Either way, the move risks sparking a confrontation between Saied —who is backed by the army — and various political parties that view his actions as a coup.

The President’s actions have proven cotnroversial. Despite that, he has widepsread support after being elected in 2019 on a platform to fight corrupt politicians.

After the announcement, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in support of his decision to dismiss the Prime Minister and parliament, with many cheering as he appeared among the crowd Sunday night.

In recent months, anger at the ruling government has only increased as many feel the ruling coalition, largely made up of the Islamist Ennahda (“Renaissance”) party, have been ineffective.

It’s a common belief in Tunisia that Ennahda’s rule, alongside its tenuous coalition, helped exacerbate problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the economy shrinking by 8% as tourism plummeted.

One of the President’s supporters told Reuters and other outlets during Sunday’s demonstration, “We are here to protect Tunisia. We have seen all the tragedies under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

He mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood, which had a strong presence in Egpyt after the Arab Spring, becuase Ennahda has longstanding relationship with the group, although it has sought to distance itself as a more moderate political group over the last few years.

Now, for their part, the ruling coalition has argued that Saied’s move is clearly unconstitutional. Rached Ghannouchi, leade of Ennahda and Parliamentary Speaker, said that he is “against gathering all powers in the hands of one person.” His position isn’t without supporters eithers. Both sides have already gathered throughout the capital and have thrown rocks at each other.

Legalities of Article 80

The question across many minds is whether or not Saied’s actions are actually constitutional.

He claims that under Article 80 of the constitution, he can fire the Prime Minister, suspend parliament for 30 days, and appoint a premier to rule — all of which is true.

However, in order to do that, the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Speaker need to be consulted; something Parliamentary Speaker Ghannouchi said was never done. It’s unclear what Mechichi’s position is as he’s stayed inside his home all day, though the army says he is not under any kind of arrest.

In addition to those requirements, a Constitutional Court needs to approve the move, and one hasn’t been set up. As the German Foregin Office put it on Monday morning, it seems like Saied is relying on “a rather broad interpretation of the constitution.”

International observers hope a solution will soon be made to keep what seems to be the last functional democracy to come from the Arab Spring from devolving into civil war or dictatorship.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (BBC)

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South Korean President Makes BTS Official Presidential Envoys



The position is largely ceremonial but will be used by the government to help give a friendly and popular face to national and international initiatives spearheaded by Seoul.

Government Recognition

The K-pop band BTS will be adding to its list of global impacts this year after South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed its members as Presidential Envoys on Wednesday.

The role will include attending international conferences such as the United Nations General Assembly in September.

At these events, BTS will perform “various activities to promote international cooperation in solving global challenges, such as improving the environment, eliminating poverty and inequality, and respecting diversity,” according to Park Kyung-mee, a Blue House spokesperson.

The band has already appeared at U.N. conferences multiple times over the last few years.

Just last year, the group gave a message of hope and reassurance through the U.N. during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior appearances at the U.N. have been either as part of U.N. organizations or as private citizens.

Wednesday’s appointment will make them official representatives of South Korea, although they won’t actually engage in any direct diplomacy and instead will be used to promote the country’s ongoing efforts in youth-related projects.

Longstanding Policy

BTS’ success, alongside prior and current K-pop groups, has remained a masterclass of soft diplomacy by the Korean government. For decades, the Korean government has cultivated promoting cultural aspects abroad in the hopes of generating more interest in the country. There are hopes that such efforts will encourage more tourism as well as an elevated image when consumers consider Korean-made products.

Such efforts, beyond cultivating K-pop and raising its stars as semi-official government symbols, also include helping fund Korean restaurants abroad as well as free Korean-language classes taught by Professors of some of Korea’s most prestigious schools.

The news comes as BTS’ newest single, “Permission to Dance,” quickly took the #1 spot on the Billboard top 100. BTS is also partnering with YouTube to promote a Permission to Dance challenge on YouTube Shorts that will begin tomorrow and end on August 4.

Fans will be encouraged to replicate dance moves from the music video, and the group’s favorite clips will be put into a compilation made by them.

See what others are saying: (Yonhap News) (The Korea Times) (All Kpop)

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