“The Commander in Chief of the Defence Services to whom the sovereign power has been transferred shall have the right to exercise the powers of legislature, executive and judiciary.”

If proof was ever needed of the Myanmar coup which began in dawn raids across Naypitaw and Yangon is constitutionally legal, this above statement is all encompassing. Directly from the Constitution itself of 2008, it goes to prove that in a State of Emergency, the Commander in Chief, in this case, Min Aung Hlaing, is judge, jury and executioner.

From the Constitution of Myanmar 2008

Since 2008 when the new constitution of Myanmar was drafted and adopted, the Western world has been salivating over the emergence of a new democracy in Burma. First under the military guidance of Thein Sein, and then under the auspice of the West’s poster girl for freedom, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma-democracy has been a far cry from perceived ‘democracy’. Where 25% of the vote was reserved for military seats, and where Defence, Foreign Affairs and other crucial departments were to be administered by the Tatmadaw and military, it is a shadow of the democracy that we have come to understand.

Then comes the violence, vitriol and atrocities. When Min Aung Hlaing and the Burmese military launched a full scale genocide on the Rohingya, Aung San Suu Kyi’s response was to support and condone their action. She went to the extent of supporting the military by representing them at the International Court of Justice. At the very next time of asking the population for a mandate, Suu Kyi and the NLD won in elections held in November 2020.

The military have claimed then and since that the elections held were riddled with fraud and claimed that almost 10 million unlisted voters were on the list. In a hat-tip to Trump, these claims have not been backed up with any real evidence and have instead been substantiated by the military seemingly flirting and posturing with the notion of a coup. In early morning raids, 26 individuals were arrested on the eve of the opening of the new parliament on February 1st 2021. Even now, as internet lines are shut down, mobile phone communications suspended and the official state media locked down, the military and the Tatmadaw claim that they are simply exercising their duty to marshall the constitution and not staging a coup. The arrests of NLD leaders, Suu Kyi, the President, and Chief Ministers from many states followed by the announcement of a year long ‘state of emergency’ very much feels like a coup d’etat despite how they may like to dress it.

During its posturing of coup in the final days of January, the Tatmadaw rolled out its armoured vehicles across Naypitaw and Yangon. Interestingly then that those vehicles were purchased through proxy or directly from some of the nations and embassies that expressed alarm at the possibility of a coup. Amongst them, the AML Panhard, produced by France and sold by Israel and the Type 92A purchased from China and rolled out across many previous atrocities in Burma. The US, UK, Australia, EU and others moved quickly to denounce any possible military takeover but were silent and still are mostly silent over the Genocide against the Rohingya or the crimes against humanity against the Karen. The same Governments have been champions of the ‘fledging democracy’ or the ‘democratic transition’ seem to not have desk advisors capable enough to understand that the constitution of this so called democracy prove that it is anything but that.

Suu Kyi and supporters of Myanmar may now look to Western nations to step in and seek freedom for the ‘democracy’. Many will call upon nations to impose heavy sanctions on the Generals in charge. But the one year long State of Emergency being shouted down by Governments the world over will surely be ignored. Afterall all of these Governments also shouted down the Burmese military during their genocide operation against the Rohingya yet none, not a single one except for The Gambia were brave enough to attempt to hold the Generals to account. Why should we expect any different now, especially when millions of dollars of arms deals will finally come to fruition?


Mabrur Ahmed – Director, Restless Beings

Restless Beings is an International Human Rights Organisation and have been working with the Rohingya for over 12 years. We have many sources based in various locations across Burma and have been receiving updates regularly about the unfolding situation.

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