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.
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)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.