The Myanmarese government which is currently taken over by the military general Min Aung Hlaing has imposed martial arts in several regions, such as in Mandalay — the second biggest city in Myanmar on Monday, Feb. 8. This has been the military’s response to the wave of public protests which had taken place a few days before. During last week’s protest in Yangoon, the protesters came in droves wearing clothes which had a red color — the color which identifies the National League for Democracy (NLD), a political party formed by Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We will continue to mobilize, keep on pushing for the government until it gives us democracy. End this military dictatorship soon!” said one of the protesters, Myo Win, as quoted by the Channel News Asia on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021.
On the pretext of protecting the civilians’ safety, the General Min Aung Hlaing has prohibited the masses from conducting public protests, gathering in a group of more than five individuals and imposing a curfew starting from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time. At the same time, the military also doesn’t hesitate to restrict public access to the internet, phone line, as well as television and radio broadcasts.
“We will impose this order indefinitely,” there goes the Myanmarese government’s press statement released in Mandalay on Monday, Feb. 8.
The Myanmarese government claimed that the protests which demanded that the public protests had gone out of hand. Basically, the public protests demanded that the military accepted the elections’ results while setting the state adviser Aung San Suu Kyi free and allowing the implementation of democracy in the country.
“This is why, this current government prohibits the citizens to gather, talk in public or conducting protests in cars,” there goes the government’s official statement.
The Women Peace Network director Wai Wai Nu said that the restriction to information access in Myanmar had only adversely impacted the public. At this moment, the public is caught up in provocative rumors which are hard to confirm. One such rumors claims that currently the military is preparing some prisons where they will throw disobedient civilians.
According to Wai Wai Nu, the growing rumors have caused more panic among the citizens who had already been traumatized being under dictatorial repression, such as the Rohingya people in Rakhine.
“In Rakhine, all communications networks have been cut off, making it difficult to stay in touch with these people. At the same time, they are also afraid of what their lives will be in the days to come,” Wai Wai Nu said in a press conference titled The Implications of Myanmar Military Coup on Human Rights and Democracy on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021 through a Zoom application.
Up until Tuesday, Feb. 9, situations in Myanmar have become even more eerie with the increasingly repressive actions taken by the authorities to respond to the public protests. The state apparatus in the Naypytaw capital city was shooting the protesters, a woman protester was even reported to be shot in the head. According to the Agence France Presse (AFP), the woman protester was only 20 years old.
Wai Wai Nu believes that the current circumstances will only worsen civilians’ lives in Myanmar, even the minority groups who had not benefited from Suu Kyi’s leadership. According to Wai Wai Nu, the military coup will also impact the reconciliation process.
“This coup is not merely about getting rid of Suu Kyi; this also tells us a great deal about military dictatorship in Myanmar in and of itself. We don’t want the Myanmar people, including the Rohingya, to find themselves under a dictatorship of any kind. We oppose military dictatorship and request your support,” said Wai Wai Nu.
She said she hoped that the international public would also criticize the powers that be in Myanmar. International punishments in the forms of military embargo as well as restrictions to military business associates were deemed effective to apply pressures on General Min Aung Hlaing.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights Director Charles Santiago said he agreed with Wai Wai Nu. He said that international punishments could also come in the forms of military weaponry embargo as well as bank account closures would also be effective in pressurizing the military junta.
“We need some concrete actions to pressurize the Myanmarese government at this time,” Charles said.
So far, more than just a few country leaders and international organizations have already protested against the coup organized by Myanmar’s military. The United Nations even mentioned once that it would mobilize international pressures to ensure that the military coup in Myanmar was bound to fail. The Amnesty International organization, meanwhile, has already called on the Myanmarese government to open telecommunications access as soon as possible.
The Amnesty International Regional Vice Director Ming Yu Hah said the organization did not want the military action to put the citizens at greater risks of human rights violations.
“Shutting down internet access amid the uncertainties brought by a coup, humanitarian crisis and a health pandemic is a very cruel and haphazard decision,” said Ming Yu Hah on a press release received by Jaring.id on Saturday, Feb. 6.
At the same time, Indonesia has also called on the Myanmarese military to comply with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trophy and the ASEAN human rights declaration. The trophy upholds compliance with the law, good governance, democratic principles, protection and respect for basic human rights and freedom as their primary values.
Previously, through the Myawaddy Television, the Myanmar military’s official television station, the mi9litary already announced that the martial law would be imposed within a full year effective on Feb. 1, 2020. The announcement was followed by a seizure of power by Myanmarese military general Min Aung Hlaing from the previous civilian leaders such as state leader and NLD party chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmarese President Win Myint as well as several elected legislative members from the NLD on the midnight of Feb. 1.
As a backgrounder, the Myanmarese coup began when several parties started to accuse the electoral organizers of allowing some foul play during the national elections organized on Nov. 8. According to a statement read out live on the Myawaddy Television station, quoted by Reuters, the military has found a tabulation gap in the final count prepared by Myanmar’s Union Election Commission (UEC). The military claimed that the UEC had failed to satisfactorily resolve the foul play accusation on the voters’ list development.
“We urge the UEC to investigate the voters’ list development process and to take action, authority over national legal drafting and governance process under the jurisdiction of the highest commander, aligned with article 418 of the 2008 Constitution,” there goes the military statement.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) opposition camp also aggressively voiced its rejection of the elections results. The opposition camp said it fully supported the military’s effort to make sure that the elections would be conducted in a fair and transparent manner. The USDP even pushed for the country to redo the voting process. Based on the UEC’s count, the NLD had successfully won 396 seats out of the total 479 seats in both the lower and upper parliaments. The number account for 83 percent of the total parliamentary seat.
Through its official website, UEC has denied all allegations of foul play, as well as the alleged defects in the voters’ list. The problem is: the voters’ list development was done openly, involving lots of relevant parties, including the General Administration Department and the Immigration Ministry.
The voters’ list was updated on a monthly basis based on feedback provided directly by the public to each erroneous identity data input. The correction process can also be done through three weeks. The crowdsourcing correction process took three months from July to August 2020 through the findyourpollingstation.uec.gov.mm website as well as the cellular application findyourpollingstation.apk.
The UEC had also distributed compact discs (CDs) containing the voters’ list to all prospective voters in each subdistrict. “We transparently distributed the CDs also to the political parties so they could obtain the information they need to reach out to potential voters,” UEC said in its official statement on Jan. 28, 2020.
Should there be any remaining dissatisfaction related to the electoral process, the UEC also called on all parties to just convey their complaints directly to the electoral court. The court will examine all documents, including the voters’ list, in front of the two disputing parties. So far, the UEC has been handling 287 objections, 94 among them filed by voters and 193 filed by legislative candidates.
Furthermore, about 12 electoral supervisory bodies in Myanmar also revealed that the dispute resolution in the passing election was also hampered by the lack of legal frameworks with which the UEC could resolve such disputes. Observers have also highlighted just how weak the election’s implementation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The watchdogs have called on for all parties to prioritize dialogues and discussion as well as legal framework revision so that the future elections can be better organized.
“We are calling for all political parties and Tatmadaw to respect the results of the most recent elections while working together with different stakeholders to ensure post-elections stability and peaceful power transfer,” stated the People Alliance for Credible Elections website on Jan. 29.
Meanwhile, Myanmarese human rights watchdog Progressive Voice chairman Khin Omar said he believed that the military had manipulated the electoral foul play issue as an opportunity to seize formal power. The coup cannot be viewed outside the context of the military group’s significant power loss in the governmental arena. The situation was not that different from the previous elections in 1999 and 2015, when a majority of Myanmarese people voted for NLD and the military tried desperately to grab on to power.
“Of course, the electoral results have shocked the military as NLD has secured a landslide victory in them. Therefore, the coup is intended to stop the elected parliamentarians from running the government,” he said during a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 2.
Furthermore, he observed that the military coup had also largely been motivated by the personal intentions of the Myanmarese military commander Min Aung Hlaing. In the next five months, however, Min will retire from his position and with NLD’s landslide victory, he will lose control over governance and parliamentary affairs. This condition is obviously not good for the military-backed businesses, which have managed to hold on to power throughout the Myanmarese democratic transition.
“In the last 10 years of Myanmarese democratic transition, the country’s business cronies have benefited only the military officers and their family members,” Khin said, highlighting how the military oligarchs had maintained its power status quo in business even after Myanmar had already transitioned into a democratic country and how the NLD victory could threaten the business crony.