Unease, anger simmer over Myanmar coup as some celebrate

Reuters , Monday 1 Feb 2021

Myanmar's army said it had detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won a landslide in a ballot in November that the military disputed

Aung San Suu Kyi
File Photo: Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi addresses judges of the International Court of Justice for the second day of three days of hearings taken on December 11, 2019. AP

Swaggering supporters of Myanmar's army chief swung through the streets of Yangon, waving national flags from pickup trucks to cheer on his coup against a democratically elected government.

Footage posted on social media showed a crowd of several score gathered in the centre of Myanmar's biggest city to celebrate Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seizing power. But the mood elsewhere in the city was laced with fear, anger and frustration.

"I feel angry. I don’t want more military rule," said Zizawah, a 32-year-old commercial director who only wanted to give one name because of fear of reprisals.

"The way they act is like a dictatorship. All of us know who we voted for."

Myanmar's army said it had detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won a landslide in a ballot in November that the military disputed.

"Today is the day that people are happy," one nationalist monk told a crowd of military supporters in a video published on Facebook.

Suu Kyi is hugely popular in Myanmar as the figurehead of decades struggling to end previous juntas despite anger in Western countries over her handling of an exodus of Rohingya refugees fleeing an army crackdown in 2017.

"We had a lawful election. People voted for the one they preferred," said Theinny Oo, a development consultant.

"We have no protection under the law now. We feel insecure and in fear."

Pro-democracy activists gave little credence to an army statement that it would hold a fair election and then step down.

"They took power by force," activist Maung Saungkha told Reuters. "Everyone feels angry and upset... I absolutely don't trust the fact that elections will be held after one year and they will transfer power back."

News of the coup, announced on military-controlled media, broke sporadically because of major disruptions to internet connections for mobile phones that many people rely on for news and keeping in touch.

Queues formed at ATMs, but many stopped working because of the disruptions to the internet while banks announced that they were being forced to close.

Markets were busy as people rushed out to stock up on essentials.

"I went to the market twice this morning. I bought rice and groceries, said one 19-year-old woman in the Yankin district who was afraid to give her name. "I don’t know what is happening. I am a bit scared."

There was no sign of any anti-military protests on the streets of Yangon or in the administrative capital Naypyidaw, where parliament had been due to start it's first post-election sitting later on Monday.

Yangon had been the scene of protests in the 1980s and 2000s that ultimately helped lead to the military agreeing to a transition to democracy.

A verified NLD Facebook account published a statement on behalf of detained leader Suu Kyi that she had written before being detained, saying that people should not accept a military coup and should protest. NLD officials were not immediately available to comment on the statement.

The military, whose favoured party was drubbed in the Nov. 8 election, cited what it said was the electoral commission's refusal to address voting irregularities it had reported.

"Our country was a bird that was just learning to fly. Now the army broke our wings,” student activist Si Thu Tun said.

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