Burma’s military announced Feb. 1 that it has taken control of the country and imposed a state of emergency. The country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in an early morning raid along with President U Win Myint and other figures associated with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). Although the internet was cut off by the military, Suu Kyi managed to get out a statement to social media calling on Burma’s people to “protest against the coup.” The military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, said the state of emergency will last for a year, during which time armed forces chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will rule and oversee new elections. The Tatmadaw is justifying the move by asserting that there was voter fraud in the November parliamentary elections, in which the military-linked Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) suffered a crushing defeat to the NLD. No official election observers had made any claims of fraud. (The Irrawady, The Irrawady, The Irrawady, BBC News, BBC News, Burma Campaign)
Although hidden from international headlines, multiple ethnic conflicts continue in Burma’s remote northern and eastern mountains. Tatmadaw aggression against the Karen people has been again escalating in recent weeks, despite an uneasy 2012 ceasefire with the Karen National Union (KNU) rebels that was supposed to end years of warfare. The European Karen Network reports that military attacks on villages in Kyauk Gyi township, Karen state, left thousands displaced last month. A statement issued Jan. 27 said that “4,000 people are now hiding in the jungle without food and shelter as a direct result of mortar shelling and increased militarization by the Burma Army.” (Karen News)
US and international sanctions against Burma were eased when the country’s democratic transition began in 2011, after decades of dictatorship. Chevron, Total and Shell are among major oil companies that have resumed operations in Burma, and are warily viewing talk of renewed sanctions. (Argus Media)
Oil exploitation with international investment in Burma has been linked to atrocities against tribal peoples in the northern and eastern mountains, as well as the genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority in western Rakhine state.
Photo: The Irrawaddy