Daily protests have been ongoing for a month and a half in towns and cities across Myanmar after the military seized control of the Southeast Asian country in a coup on February 1.
Security forces, made up of police and military personnel and under the command of coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, have responded to demonstrations with increasing brutality, launching a countrywide systematic crackdown that includes shooting peaceful protesters and enforced disappearances.
At least 138 people, including children, have been killed since the coup, according to the United Nations Human Rights office. And more than 2,100 – including journalists, protesters, activists, government officials, trade unionists, writers, students and civilians – have been detained, often in nighttime raids, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Though activists put both those figures as higher.
Seizing power, Min Aung Hlaing detained democratically elected leaders – including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi – ousted the ruling National League for Democracy government, and established a ruling junta called the State Administration Council. The commander-in-chief declared a state of emergency for one year, after which he said an election would be held.
Here’s what you need to know about the situation.
Why did the Myanmar military seize power?
The military justified its takeover by alleging widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 general election, which gave Suu Kyi’s party another overwhelming victory.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) performed dismally in the poll, dashing hopes among some of its military backers that it might take power democratically – or at least get to pick the next president. The military then claimed – without providing evidence – there were more than 10.5 million cases of “potential fraud, such as non-existent voters” and called on the election commission to publicly release the final polling data.
The commission rejected those claims of voter fraud.