Military Takes Control in Myanmar

The Story:

On the morning of February 1, 2021, in Myanmar (the country in southeast Asia formerly known as Burma), the military took power, declaring that this was made necessary by a state of emergency. Key civilian officials, including a Nobel Peace Prize winner, have been detained.


One of the arrested civilian officials was Aung San Suu Kyi, who has the title of State Counsellor, the rough equivalent of a prime minister. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” That struggle, clearly, continues.

On February 2, the Biden administration in the US declared the Myanmar military’s moves a “coup.” That is not a mere vocabulary choice. For a President to call something a “coup,” under US law, serves as a foundation for later sanctions.

The following day, two days after the Myanmar military’s declaration of a state of emergency, the police filed criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of violation of he expert/import law, for allegedly importing unauthorized communications devices (walkie-talkies for her security staff).

The Thing to Know:

The choice of an arcane law involving (in this case) inadequate importation paperwork is a common feature of military intervention in politics in Myanmar. A US State Department official told reporters recently, “A very small circle of Burma’s military leaders have chosen their own interests over the will and well-being of the people.”

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