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A Military Coup Zaps Burma, Aka Myanmar

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Myanmar's military seized power in a coup on
February 1, detained internationally disgraced civilian leader Aung
San Suu Kyi and other recently elected officials, and declared a
one-year State of Emergency because voting was marred by "terrible

Commander-in-chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing's security forces moved
at dawn -- six months before his term expires in June -- prompting
speculation he may have been motivated to protect his extensive, murky
financial investments and block any weakening of the military's
political domination.

The military's Myawaddy Television announced Sr. Gen. Min was now
ruling and a State of Emergency would be enforced for one year,
starting immediately.

"The voter lists which were used during the multiparty general
election which was held on the 8th of November were found to have huge
discrepancies and the Union Election Commission failed to settle this
matter," the televised statement said.

"There was terrible fraud in the voter list."

The announcement pointed to the 2008 constitution which states:

"If there arises a State of Emergency that could cause disintegration
of the Union [Myanmar], disintegration of national solidarity and loss
of sovereign power, or attempts therefore by wrongful forcible means
such as insurgency or violence, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense
Services has the right to take over and exercise State sovereign

Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party had won 83
percent of the vote in an election on November 8 in the country
formerly known as Burma.

Ms. Suu Kyi, 75, was due to begin a second five-year term in March.

The previous election in 2015 also awarded her candidates a landslide
victory and convinced the military to loosen its grip and share power.

Ms. Suu Kyi had languished for decades under house arrest while
demanding democracy but decided to support the military in a 2015
arrangement which empowered her in a newly created position as state

The Nobel laureate remains popular in Myanmar, but was disgraced and
stripped of many of her international awards during recent years.

She shocked and disgusted international supporters after staunchly
supporting her ethnic Burman Buddhist majority's racist treatment
against minority Rohingya Muslims.

UN investigators condemned the military's "genocide" against Rohingya
which forced more than 800,000 of them to flee into neighboring
Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Ms. Suu Kyi defended the military, denied charges of genocide, and
blamed "terrorists" for the violence along Myanmar's western border.

Others detained with Ms. Suu Kyi included the president, chief
ministers of several main cities and regions, several cabinet
ministers, Ms. Suu Kyi's personal doctor and her lawyer, plus some
student leaders and intellectuals, according to pro-democracy sources.

Troops driving pick-up trucks arrived in front of some people's houses
and hustled them into the vehicles, according to photographs and
videos from the sites.

"They will give the excuse that they have arrested us over the alleged
voting fraud case," NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told U.S.-funded Radio
Free Asia.

The Election Commission dismissed the military's accusations of
fraudulent voting.

"The United States is alarmed by reports that the Burmese military has
taken steps to undermine the country's democratic transition,
including the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other
civilian officials in Burma," White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"President Biden has been briefed by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

"The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent
elections or impede Myanmar's democratic transition, and will take
action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed," Ms.
Psaki said.

People in Myanmar woke on February 1 morning as the coup took place
with troops and roadblocks on the streets and most Internet and
telephone links cut, though Wi-Fi continued in some cities.

Panic shopping and long lines at banks appeared, according to
residents in the commercial port Yangon and the more isolated inland
capital Naypyitaw.

Fearful NLD supporters took down red banners from their homes which
had displayed support for Ms. Suu Kyi.

During the past few weeks, the military and its political ally, the
Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) alleged widespread vote
fraud including the use of expired voters' eligibility lists, but
produced no evidence of widespread wrongdoing.

"Very disturbing news that what many have feared is indeed unfolding
in Myanmar," tweeted Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar's
human rights.

Next-door Thailand which has a coup leader as its elected prime
minister and invests in Myanmar, said the coup was that country's
internal affair.

"It is their business. It is their domestic issue," Deputy Prime
Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also defense minister, told
reporters when asked about Bangkok's reaction to the putsch.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based American foreign correspondent
reporting from Asia since 1978. Excerpts from his new nonfiction book,
"Rituals. Killers. Wars. & Sex. -- Tibet, India, Nepal, Laos, Vietnam,
Afghanistan, Sri Lanka & New York" are available at

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