Panic, anger and uncertainty in Yangon after Myanmar coup


Yangon, Myanmar – I went to mattress in a flawed democracy and awoke underneath army rule. Late on Sunday, hours earlier than Myanmar’s new parliament was attributable to convene, the army launched an aggressive assertion once more rejecting the outcomes of November’s election, which the National League for Democracy (NLD) received in a landslide. It was not a superb signal for persevering with negotiations within the nation’s capital, which sources had mentioned have been going badly.

I awoke on Monday at 5am to a sequence of missed cellphone calls and textual content messages to seek out that the worst was confirmed: the Myanmar army had moved to grab energy from the elected civilian authorities in a single day. The nation’s chief, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, had been arrested within the distant capital of Naypyidaw, together with different high-ranking NLD officers.

I used to be instantly taken again to September 2017, once I awoke in Phnom Penh to seek out that the pro-democracy opposition chief Kem Sokha had been arrested in a midnight raid. That was the start of the tip of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s try and carry democracy to the nation.

Shortly earlier than 7am, my cell knowledge and home web abruptly stopped working, a improvement many anticipated ought to the army go ahead with a coup. I took to the streets, schlepping throughout Yangon to discover a cafe that was open early, defied COVID-19 restrictions, and was serving prospects regardless of the coup.

I had no such luck. I handed road markets full of individuals panic shopping for emergency meals provides like rice, eggs, and greens. Many have been scared and confused, unable to contact household exterior of the town. Others have been annoyed and offended.

Eventually, I made my technique to my health club. There was a easy piece of paper taped on the door: “gym closed today”. However, the door was unlocked and the WiFi switched on, so I used to be in a position to sit within the foyer and connect with the skin world once more. I confirmed with a supply that arrests have been extending past NLD officers, sweeping up activists as effectively, including a brand new dimension of fear for myself and my colleagues working within the media.

Soon, I ventured again out to do extra interviews, figuring out that doing so would depart me unable to speak. I spoke to extra individuals on the streets, discovering extra uncertainty. Lines have been forming exterior of grocery shops, banks, and pharmacies.

I returned home to seek out the WiFi nonetheless not functioning. The pleasant safety guard at my constructing gave me a tragic smile. “You should go back to America,” he mentioned. “Myanmar not good.” I went to a colleague’s home and as soon as once more reconnected to WiFi, submitting quotes and snippets from the bottom to totally different media shops.

Then got here the heartbreaking textual content messages from Myanmar mates:

“My friend’s dad got captured”.

“I’ve never felt this weak in my life”.

Uncertain future

With night time falling over Yangon, there have been no main indicators of unrest and solely remoted incidents of violence, however many questions stay.

A press release attributed to Aung San Suu Kyi was posted on an official NLD Facebook web page, urging supporters to reject the coup and protest within the streets, however some NLD officers have been unsure over its authenticity. How will NLD supporters reply to the assertion? Will the army crush mass demonstrations violently as they’ve completed prior to now?

2021 02 01T090447Z 852304167 RC2LJL9UY7T7 RTRMADP 3 MYANMAR POLITICS THAILANDNLD supporters shout slogans exterior Myanmar’s embassy throughout a rally after the army seized energy from a democratically elected civilian authorities and arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, in Bangkok, Thailand, February 1, 2021 [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Will democratic house in Myanmar revert to the semi-open context that existed between 2010 and 2015 underneath the army’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP)? Or will Myanmar discover itself within the Orwellian nightmares of the previous army governments?

How a lot of this was premeditated? For weeks, the USDP accused the NLD of voter fraud, whereas the Tatmadaw stood silent on the difficulty, seemingly permitting its proxy to flounder by itself. Then instantly, it joined the disinformation marketing campaign with a vengeance. Was this a calculated move to make the army’s eventual intervention appear reluctant? Or was it making impulsive selections on the fly?

There are different questions, maybe extra regarding: What does this imply for the Rohingya and different ethnic minorities which have suffered unspeakable abuses by the hands of the army? What will they expertise by the hands of a totally unfettered army regime? The NLD was criticised for remaining silent, but it surely was the army that carried out campaigns of mass homicide, rape, and arson.

I closed the day with a heavy coronary heart, gutted for the individuals of Myanmar, together with my shut mates and courageous colleagues, who all deserve a lot greater than a return to a darkish, latest previous.