Myanmar Military Seizes Power in Coup

Nicole Celis, Staff Writer

On Feb. 1, the military in Myanmar reclaimed control of the government from the civilian rule democracy that has been in place since 2011. Reports from inside the country state that the military has taken over in a coup d’etat and that members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) have been detained. A state of emergency has been announced for one year, and it is assumed that the military plans on remaining in control during that time.

This planned coup was sparked by widespread criticism of the recent election of Aung San Suu Kyi, with many opposers citing election fraud. She is among the group of people suspected to be detained, and there is current suspicion that she is under house arrest. Power was transferred to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, who has been under international fire before for his role in ethnic cleansing in the country. In 2017, thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh, according to The country at large considers them to be “illegal immigrants” and has denied them citizenship in the past. Suu Kyi has also been criticized for her role in the mass ethnic cleansing that happened during her leadership. 

One issue that has many people worried is that the internet has been shut down in Myanmar amid protests of the coup. Amnesty International is worried about the potential risk for human rights violations during this time as the ability to communicate with the outside world is extremely limited. 

After news of the coup d’etat broke worldwide, President Joe Biden came forth threatening sanctions if the military does not concede control and democracy is restored. He has since called on generals to revert their course in the government and to release detained leaders of NLD, including Suu Kyi. 

Though the exact path President Biden will take is unclear, it will be his first major international move since taking the oath of office on Jan. 20. 

“We will work with our partners to support restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and impose consequences on those responsible,” Biden said during a State Department speech. 

Biden will have to form a coalition to effectively impose sanctions, so this will be the first real test of his foreign policy abilities, and it could be a telling event for the rest of his presidency.

Economic sanctions would threaten Myanmar by cutting off a large portion of its diverse foreign investment, which could lead it to turn to China for assistance. Many U.S. allies are “watching and waiting” to see whether the U.S. will pull its investments in Myanmar. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also explains that the President can consider an executive order and/or congressionally approved package of sanctions. Having a bipartisan package approved would be a huge step towards demonstrating Biden’s commitment to working on both sides of the aisle.