Mass Protests Follow Military Coup in Myanmar
By Manuel Wallick
Following up upon their threat, the military of Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, launched a coup against the democratically elected government of the nation. On February 1st, military leadership took control and arrested most of the country’s leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of state and democratic reformer. The country has met this coup with protests enveloping the country and thousands taking to the streets.
The coup was threatened by the military after the party they were backing underperformed in the recent elections. The military claimed there were widespread irregularities, which they used as an excuse to seize power. Officials said that the failure of the government to act against these supposed irregularities resulted in them taking control.
Following the coup, protests broke out around the country against the military and their rule. These have taken several, mostly peaceful forms, including the release of balloons and vehicle parades. These have taken place in large cities such as Yangon but also around the country. Various groups including monks, who have played important roles in prior protests, have joined in taking to the streets.
The military has sought to solidify its grip on power and has gone to great lengths to accomplish this. The military has restricted internet access and certain social media platforms within the country, including Facebook, in order to try and control the protests. These abuses are just some of the ways in which the military is attempting to establish its control which also includes arresting protest leaders. The military has also attempted to calm the protests by claiming that they are threatening democracy and that the country must come together. All of this comes after the military withdrew from governing a decade ago in which protests helped establish civilian control of the country.
This has not stopped the protests which continue across the country, though it has appeared that the internet has been restored to a certain degree. While military presence has grown in cities such as Yangon and around the country, people remain in the streets. In one of the most prominent steps yet, the country was paralyzed as a mass strike calling for the restoration of civilian rule began.
After having arrested numerous government officials, several, including Aung San Suu Kyi, faced charges levied against them by military officials. In light of the mass protests, the military has introduced more charges against the former head of state. These actions have drawn international criticism and condemnation, and in response to the coup and abuses by the military, the United States has imposed sanctions on the coup leaders.
Manuel Wallick is a sophomore from Lexington, South Carolina, majoring in political science.
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