Author: Jack Myint
With a heavy heart, we share with you the unfortunate news that as of this writing, Myanmar is going through a military coup d’etat.
In a TV message from the military-run Myawaddy network, the military-backed Vice-President (1) U Myint Swe, serving as interim President, declared a State of National Emergency and handed over all powers - executive, legislative, and judiciary - to the current military Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for a one-year term.
The Council has received direct confirmation from our trusted political and business contacts on the ground that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, select Union Ministers, State and Region Chief Ministers, members of the ruling NLD party’s Central Executive Committee, and NLD Members of Parliament have been detained by the military between 4:30 AM – 6:00 AM (Myanmar time) on February 1, 2021.
Most of the NLD leadership were in Nay Pyi Taw to swear in to their elected roles when the new Parliament was set to convene on February 2. Those that were not in NPT were detained in their home states, signaling a coordinated nationwide effort by the military.
Additionally, we have received confirmation that civil society leaders (88 generation activists), religious leaders, and journalists have also been detained with news and rumors of arrests coming in by the hour.
Internet and phone lines for the Nay Pyi Taw region have been cut off. Phone lines have also been cut off in Yangon but internet is still available at present. Military troops have also surrounded the five major national television stations (based in Yangon). As of two hours ago, all TV stations (public and private) are down, with the sole exception of Myawaddy, the military-run network.
Talks of a coup have been floating in the Myanmar rumor mill for a few days now and Council senior leadership and the Myanmar Country Team have been closely monitoring developments. The issue started with the military contesting the results of the November 8 general elections which saw an overwhelming NLD victory, alleging that the Union Election Commission (UEC) colluded with the ruling NLD party to commit voter fraud.
When the military’s calls for a recount (under their supervision) and postponement of convening Parliament were quickly dismissed by the UEC and the civilian government respectively, they warned of revoking the constitution and showed minimal troop movements in major cities, foreshadowing likelihood of a coup. This move was seen by Myanmar watchers as more of a negotiation tactic to get the civilian government to agree to some concessions, including power sharing mechanisms.
As of yesterday, we had it on good authority that high level negotiations between the NLD and military have begun and 12 hours ago, the military released a statement that their earlier statement of revoking the constitution was taken out of context. This was generally seen as a positive outcome of the ongoing negotiations as tensions seemed to have subsided. But in a plot twist, in the early hours of the morning, the military did in fact stage a coup.
Because a majority of the military’s activities were focused to the confines of Nay Pyi Taw, the coup as it stands can be labeled bloodless. However, as folks in major cities such as Yangon, Mandalay, Taunggyi wake up to this news, there is cause for concern for civil unrest with the possibility of protests turning violent (if history has taught us anything from the coups of 1962 and 1990). All members and staff on the ground in Myanmar should be extremely vigilant and remain indoors at all times (at least for the next 24 hours). Follow U.S. Embassy’s OSAC guidelines which is attached to this note.
More to come as events unfold. Please know that we are in constant communication with folks on the ground in Myanmar through all hours of the day and night – please feel free to email Myanmar Country Manager, Jack Myint at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1 (202) 520-9676 with any questions or concerns.