A democratic country can turn into a dictatorship in numerous ways. The most
common is when an elected political leader turns into a dictator. The most
prominent example is Adolf Hitler. But on the other hand, it may so happen that
a democratically elected Government is overthrown by a separate group of people,
which can either be the country's military, any terrorist group, or the
opposition party. Such an act is called a coup. If a country's military does
this, it is called a military coup. This is what is happening in Myanmar.
On 1st February 2021, Myanmar's military overthrew the democratically elected
government in a military coup. Because of this, the situation in Myanmar is very
disturbed till now. Coup d'tat is a French word that means blow against the
. It is an illegal and unconstitutional seizure of power from the
government. Most of the coups are military coups because the army has this
amount of physical power and weapons to demolish a government. There have been
more than 500 military coups worldwide after World War II, out of which 200 have
Also, it is not always necessary that a military coup always ends up
establishing a dictatorship. Sometimes, it is done to overthrow an already
existing dictatorship and establish democracy. The most recent example is the
Sudan Military coup of 2019. But it happens in the rarest of rare cases. Coup is
a concept different from revolution. Generally, in a revolution, the civilian
citizens participate as well e.g., the French and Russian revolutions. Whereas
it is not so in a coup. The military or army carries it out.
History Of Myanmar:
Myanmar, earlier known as Burma, got independence from British Rule in 1948. The
party in power after the independence was the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom
League (AFPFL). But in 1958, the military started getting involved in their
politics for the first time. AFPFL split and the chief of Staff General Ne win
became the Interim Prime Minister.
In 1960, elections were re-conducted and he
handed over the power to the elected leader. But after just two years, in 1962,
he took away that power in a military coup. After this, his military
dictatorship lasted for decades and he forcefully imposed his ideology on the
citizens. Because of this, the economic and social conditions of the state
became terrible. Till the 1980s, Myanmar was considered one of the least
developed nations in the world.
In 1988, General Saw Maung replaced General Ne Win, but by then the rage among
citizens had peaked. Around the same time, Aung San Suu Kyi formed a party
called National League for Democracy (NLD) whose main aim was to bring democracy
back in Myanmar without any military intervention.
The military put her on House
arrest in 1989 to suppress her voice but by then the anger of citizens had
reached such levels that even the military was forced to conduct elections in
1990. In the elections, Suu Kyi's party won by a landslide, but the military
refused to accept the result and the country continued to be bound by the
The next wave of protests was seen in 2007 when a large number of Buddhist Monks
protested, also called Saffron Revolution. The citizens were angry at the
economic situation and rising fuel prices. This time the military was forced to
draft a new constitution enacted in 2008. Even though it was mentioned in the
constitution that 25% of the seats in the Parliament will be reserved for the
Military, and any constitutional amendment would require 75% votes in favor, it
provided a kind of Veto Power to the Military.
In the 2010 elections, the
Military Party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won and Suu Kyi was
released from House arrest. Later in the 2015 elections, she won again by a
landslide. But in 2017, her international image suffered after the Rohingya
Crisis. Even if it was conducted by the military, Suu Kyi did not speak out
against it in the international platform apprehending another military coup.
In the 2020 elections, Suu Kyi won with an even more drastic majority. After
losing the elections and seeing immense support to Suu Kyi by the public, the
military got scared of losing its powers granted under the Constitution.
Therefore, in February 2021, the Military launched another coup, ousted the
elected government, and declared an emergency.
It was claimed that the action
has been taken exercising power under Article 417 of the country's constitution,
which allows the military to take over in times of emergency. The coronavirus
crisis and the government's failure to postpone the November elections were
reasons stated for the emergency. The military has assigned Vice President
Myint Swe, a former military officer, as head of the government for one year.
The takeover sparked widespread street protests, which were
violently suppressed by military and security forces. More than 1,100 people
were killed in open firing, over 8000 arrested and at least 120 who have
reportedly died in custody. It has also forcibly displaced more than 230,000
civilians, bringing the total number of internally placed persons in Myanmar to
well over half a million.
Civil voices are also being silenced, over 90 journalists have been arrested and
eight major media outlets shuttered. Recently, Mohib Ullah, a Rohingya activist
and chair of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), was
shot dead on Wednesday by unknown assailants in the refugee camp in Cox's Bazar,
located in the south of the country. Entire villages have also been attacked
using airstrikes, sieges, and mass arson and civilians have been forced to serve
as porters and human shields. As of July, the junta had killed at least 75
children ranging in age from 14 months to 17 years.
Telecommunications came to a near halt in the morning and early afternoon. In
the capital, internet and phone access appeared to be blocked. Many people
elsewhere in the country who could still access the internet found their social
media accounts had been temporarily suspended. Barbed wire roadblocks were set
up across Yangon, the largest city, and military units began to appear outside
government buildings such as City Hall.
International Covenants And Treaties Violation:
Governments and international organizations condemned the takeover, saying it
sets back the limited democratic reforms Myanmar has made. Myanmar is already a
Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the
Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In the year 2017, Myanmar also ratified the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR), and its second optional protocol that aims to abolish
the death penalty. By ratifying a treaty, Myanmar is obligated under
international law to comply with the provisions of the treaty in good faith and
cannot use domestic laws to justify a failure to comply with treaty
The most important treaty that Myanmar is a party to is the UN Charter, which is
considered a super-treaty
because Article 103 of the Charter mandates that any
conflict between Charter obligations and those under any other international
agreement be resolved in favor of the Charter. Other treaties include the
Genocide Convention, the four Geneva Conventions, the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Convention
on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of
nuclear weapons (NPT).
- Civil and Political Rights in Myanmar have also been systematically
destroyed which includes:
- Article 6:
- No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
- When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is
understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to
the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed
under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of
the Crime of Genocide.
- Article 7:
No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or
degrading treatment or punishment.
- Article 9:
- Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall
be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.
- Article 10:
- All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and
with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
- Article 17:
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his
privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his
honor and reputation.
- Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such
interference or attacks.
- Article 19:
- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall
include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, or print, in the
form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
- Article 21:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized
- viii. Article 27:
In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist,
persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community
with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess
and practice their religion, or to use their language.
- The following rights enshrined in the Constitution of Myanmar, 2008 are
violated in the present case:
- Article 21(a)- Every citizen shall enjoy the right of equality, the
right of liberty, and the right of justice, as prescribed in this
- Article 353- Nothing shall, except in accord with existing laws, be
detrimental to the life and personal freedom of any person.
- Article 354-. Every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of the
- To express and publish freely their convictions and opinions;
- To assemble peacefully without arms and holding procession;
- Article 376- Protection from unjustified restraint.
While the people of Myanmar have been bravely standing up to the military
regime, the international response to the coup has so far been uneven. Myanmar's
neighbors, particularly China and some Southeast Asian countries, have resisted
taking meaningful action to pressure the military.
The military coup created serious distress in Myanmar as well as the Association
of Southeast Asian States (ASEAN). At the meeting, ASEAN and the junta reached
the five-point consensus comprising:
- Immediate cessation of violence and the exercise of utmost restraint;
- Dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution;
- Appoint a special envoy by ASEAN Chair to facilitate mediation in the
dialogue process, with the assistance of the Secretary-General of ASEAN;
- Provide humanitarian assistance through the AHA Centre;
- Special envoy and delegation shall visit Myanmar to meet with all
But it has also been ignored by the military leader Min Aung Hlaing which shows
just how little the junta respects the regional body's authority.
The response from the US, UK, and EU has been more robust, with all three
adopting measures designed to pressure the Tatmadaw to reverse course. Sanctions
imposed in the initial period after the coup targeted military officers and the
entities most directly linked to human rights abuses and the military takeover
with visa bans and asset freezes.
What Still Needs To Be Done?
- Members of the military regime should not be allowed to represent
Myanmar in international organizations and should be excluded from
international forums, or should only be included along with members of the
National Unity Government.
- The international community should also deny the military access to the
money belonging to the legitimate government of Myanmar by cutting off
access to foreign currencies, which the military needs to sustain itself,
administer the country and purchase weapons and technology to carry out
atrocities against civilians.
- Governments should impose sanctions on the oil and gas industries which
is the main source of foreign exchange for Myanmar that will block payments
from going to the military. Instead, this money should be placed into
restricted escrow accounts for future use by the legitimate government.
- The international community also needs to do more to assist those on the
frontlines of the fight for freedom from military rule by prioritizing
humanitarian aid, advocating for the release of all political prisoners and
the lifting of the internet ban, and supporting asylum seekers, refugees,
and ethnic minority groups.
In the above scenario, the citizens of the nation suffered the most. They gave
80% of their votes to NLD, hoping for a democratic government that would make
the situation better, but all in vain. This was not the democracy people came
for. The reason is crystal clear, the military had 25% reservation in the
legislature. The emergency may last longer too, as the constitution has a
provision for extension of one more year of such emergency.
Even after all the violence and destruction, the military has not been able to
gain international recognition, nor were they able to secure control over
Myanmar. These targeted economic sanctions are welcome steps to help undermine
the military, but more needs to be done by the international community to both
cut-off sources of funding to the regime and deny its legitimacy. The situation
is more disturbed than apparent and requires immediate action at the
- United nations News
- Global Justice Centre
- Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties,1980
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Constitution of Myanmar
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Ayushi Bhardwaj
- Source: Centre for Systematic Peace; press reports (1946-2020) (Last
visited on 10/10/21 at 4:15 pm)
(last visited on 10/10/2021 at 5:22 pm)
- according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in his official
statement (last visited on 10/10/2021 at 5:45 pm)
- Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) at Article 26
- https://www.globaljusticecenter.net/documents/BindingObligations.pdf (last
visited on 10/10/2021 at 6:03 pm)
, BBA LLB 4th Year, Mody University
Authentication No: AR210003610822-10-0422