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What next for Myanmar after military coup?

Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected leaders detained as military seizes control

Troops are patrolling the streets of Myanmar amid a communications shutdown after the nation’s military seized power and declared a one-year state of emergency.

The army’s TV station announced early on Monday that power had been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing following the arrests of Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The crackdown follows a landslide victory for the NLD in the November election, seen as a referendum on the democratic government. The military has claimed - without producing evidence - that the vote was marred by fraud.

What happens now? 

In a letter written in preparation for her arrest, Suu Kyi warned that Myanmar was being forced back under dictatorship and urged NLD supporters to “not accept this” and “protest against the coup”, the BBC reports.

However, major disruptions to the country’s internet and phone services mean “it’s difficult to understand what exactly is happening and what the coming days will entail for those in Myanmar”, says the Southeast Asia Globe.

The Times’ Asia editor Richard Lloyd Parry writes that “the most convincing explanation” for the coup is “the wounded pride of an army that presents itself as the people’s heroes and which cannot stomach being publicly exposed as so unpopular”.

The military drew up Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution, which saw a partial return to democracy in the ethnically-divided nation, and “has long seen itself as the guardian of national unity and the constitution”, Reuters says.

Known as the Tatmadaw, the military gets an unelected quota of 25% of parliamentary seats and maintains power over the ministries of defence, home affairs and immigration.

But the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the successor to the formerly ruling military junta, performed badly in November’s election, dropping seats across both houses.

The military claims that the rival NLD’s victory in winning 83% of the available seats was a result of widespread voter fraud.

Although hopes linger that the stand-off can be resolved through negotiations between the government and the military, what will happen in the coming days is a matter of speculation. 

As Lloyd Parry notes in The Times, the political backdrop has “changed since the last time Suu Kyi was under house arrest, in 2010”.

Back then, Suu Kyi was seen as a beacon of democracy in the troubled nation, after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

But having soiled her global standing through her “defiant indifference” to the genocide of the Rohingya Muslims, Lloyd Parry continues, “she will never again command the unquestioned moral authority that used to be her greatest strength”.

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