Saturday, October 16

Coup in Burma: “My father was kidnapped by the Army. We don’t know where they took him”

  • Analysis Burma, crushed by a line of dictators
  • Sounding Coup in Burma: the Army takes control of the country

In front of the Union Assembly, the Parliament of Burma, Khing Hnin Wai was recording an aerobics class to the rhythm of ‘Ampun Bang Jago’, a popular Indonesian song. Tanks and military convoys began to appear behind her. The woman, apparently, did not realize what was happening behind her back. She continued with her morning exercise in the open air, oblivious to the coup that was taking place at that very moment.

Khing Hnin Wai, who works as a gym teacher in Naipyid, the capital of Burma, had been filming her aerobics classes for 11 months in front of the road leading to Parliament. He always posts his workouts on his Facebook account, where he has 25,000 followers. But none of his videos had gone as viral as this last one.

The aerobics scene with the tanks in the back occurred Monday at dawn. Many citizens, who had gone to bed the night before in a country with a system quite similar to that of a democracy, rose up in a military dictatorship.

“It was very strange and fast. In a few hours everything changed. We woke up without internet. The phone also had no signal. We did not know what was happening until they explained on television that the military would take power again“explains Kyaw Naing Htun, an activist with the Burmese Political Prisoners Assistance Association (AAPP).

“I went with my mother and sister to the supermarket to buy sacks of rice, fruits and vegetables. There were many people doing the same. My father went to the cashier to get money. Then we locked ourselves at home. We thought that people could go out to the street and there would be a rebellion. And we already know how the protests end here. Although, for now, everything is quite calm, which scares me even more, “he says.

Kyaw Naing Htun lives in Rangn, the economic capital and largest city of Burma. From there, several citizens and journalists began to describe the atmosphere in the country after the military coup on social media. “My neighbor has just removed the flag of the NLD (National League for Democracy, the ruling party, overthrown by the coup plotters),” researcher Annie Zaman said on Twitter.

The reality is that in the streets of Rangn, or of the political capital, Naipyid, what there were were soldiers marching and citizens in favor of the coup who celebrated it by walking in their cars with patriotic songs of the country at full volume. Others had nothing to celebrate. The military have ended up devouring the democracy they protected.

The coup was announced on the military-owned television channel Myawaddy, when a presenter of the Informativo cited the 2008 Constitution, which allows the Army to declare a national emergency. State television broadcasts, internet access were suspended, and canceled all domestic and international flights. The stock market and commercial banks were also closed.

The military regime returns to a country that has only been holding parliamentary elections since 2011. Although thanks to the Constitution, the military already had guaranteed by decree a quarter of all seats in Parliament and control of the most powerful ministries in the country.

The main political leaders of the NLD have been arrested, beginning with the popular State Councilor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as President Win Myint. According to the Association for the Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 42 officials and 16 activists have been detained. Although other internal reports speak of hundreds of arrested.

“My father was kidnapped by the Burmese army. We do not know where they took him or what his status is.”says Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, a London-based human rights activist and daughter of a local politician, Mya Aye, who was one of the student leaders who faced the military dictatorship at the end of the last century. The activist has uploaded a video to her social networks in which a security camera captures the exact moment in which a group of soldiers enter her house and drag her father out.

Those arrested include members of ethnic minority parties and a prominent film director, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, who posted a Facebook post criticizing the military. Another of the detainees is a popular Buddhist monk named Shwe Nya War Sayadaw, also critical of the military. About the leader of the country, Suu Kyi, believed to be under house arrest at her Naipyid residence.

After the declaration of the state of emergency, the power of the state passed into the hands of General Min Aung Hlaing, who took control of the legislative, executive and judicial powers. The position of interim president was held by Myint Swe, a former general serving as vice president. According to the Army statement, 11 ministers have been appointed, while 24 deputy ministers were removed from their posts. Among the new faces is the Foreign Minister, a former officer named Wunna Maung Lwin.

The military refused to accept the results of the elections held on November 8, in which Suu Kyi’s NLD won 83% of the seats. The opposition, backed by the soldiers, began to speak of fraud after the elections. An accusation that was repeated yesterday in a statement signed by the newly appointed interim president to justify the imposition of a one-year state of emergency.

According to the new military government, when the state of emergency ends, in February 2022, new elections will be held that “will return state power to a new government”. Although before that happens, the military “will reform the electoral commission and review the results of the parliamentary elections.”

For now, only the activist group Yangon Youth Network, one of the largest in Burma, has launched a social media campaign calling for “civil disobedience” against the military takeover.


Outside the country, the condemnation of the coup has been the majority. Although China and Russia, which already protected the Burmese military after the crackdown on the Rohingya minority in 2017, have remained aloof in protesting the Burmese Army’s takeover. “We hope that all parties in Burma can properly handle differences under the constitutional and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability,” said Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Beijing Foreign Ministry.

From the United States, Joe Biden warned that his administration would again impose sanctions on the Asian country. “We will work with our partners throughout the region and the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to hold those responsible for reversing Burma’s democratic transition,” the US president said in a statement.

Almost all governments in the European Union called for the release of the detained politicians and activists. This Tuesday afternoon, in addition, the 15 member countries of the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting behind closed doors to address the military coup in Burma. “We fear that the coup will worsen the plight of some 600,000 Rohingya Muslims who are still in the country,” said a UN spokesman.

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