Myanmar's powerful military has taken control of the country in a coup and declared a state of emergency, following the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government leaders in early morning raids on February 1.
The streets of Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, appeared outwardly calm Tuesday morning, as residents made their way to work. But behind the usual facade, anxiety and haunting memories of living under the brutal military rule of the past are seared into the minds and bodies of many Burmese people. Critics, activists, journalists, academics, and artists were routinely jailed and tortured during nearly 50 years of isolationist rule.
There are now fears that Monday's actions could be a prelude to a wider clampdown. In all, the new ruling junta removed 24 ministers and deputies from the government over allegations of election fraud and named 11 of its own allies as replacements who will assume their roles in a new administration.
Questions as to who is in contact with senior members of the formerly ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), including recently deposed State Counsellor Suu Kyi, remain unclear. It is believed that most of the top NLD officials were detained at their residences in the capital, Naypyidaw, as lawmakers were gathering there for the opening of the new parliament when the raids happened.
In a statement Tuesday, the NLD called for the immediate release of those detained, including recently deposed President Win Myint and Suu Kyi, and to allow the country's third parliament to govern. It also called for the recognition of November's general election results and said the coup was "a defamatory act against the history" of Myanmar and its government.
On Tuesday, though most businesses had reopened, a heavier security presence still remained. Tanks were seen at the gates of parliament, and soldiers were standing guard outside a government guesthouse where some politicians were detained.
While communications across the country remained spotty with intermittent connections on phone and data, banks had reopened, according to the state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar. NLD spokesperson Kyi Toe late Monday said on his personal Facebook page that Suu Kyi was being held at her official residence, where she was "feeling well" and "walking in the compound frequently."
A statement purportedly from the de facto leader was published on her party's official Facebook account Monday, calling for people to protest against the coup, though there were questions about the statement's authenticity.
"The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship," the statement said.
Suu Kyi has not been seen since she was detained early on Monday morning. The statement ends with her name but is not signed, and it was unclear how Suu Kyi would issue a statement while in detention. Analysts warned that social media accounts could have been hacked or taken over by bad actors in order to encourage actions that might provide a pretext for further military force.
The only demonstrations seen so far have been small-scale and from pro-military supporters. Suu Kyi, however, remains enormously popular, especially among the country's majority Bamar ethnic group. Though her supporters have yet to take to the streets, many in Yangon have privately expressed anger over the military's actions, which they said disregarded the will of the people in what was considered to be a generally fair election. Some have also questioned why the military would take over when they benefited from the previous legislative arrangement. The military, or Tatmadaw, as they are officially known, were constitutionally guaranteed 25% of seats in parliament and control over powerful ministries.
Some have also questioned why the military would take over when they benefited from the previous legislative arrangement. The military, or Tatmadaw, as they are officially known, were constitutionally guaranteed 25% of seats in parliament and control over powerful ministries.
One Yangon-based reporter said he spent a sleepless night worrying about whether he would get a knock on the door and was scared that journalists would be targeted next.
The unfolding situation in Myanmar is also a big test for US President Joe Biden, who called on Myanmar's military leaders to accept the election result and maintain peace throughout.
The United States removed sanctions on Myanmar over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. "The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action," Biden said in a statement. There is evidence that the uncertainty over what's to come in the immediate aftermath of the coup is having an impact on international business.