Thursday, May 19, 2022

Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest after Myanmar putsch

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Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, a day after the coup that toppled his government, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.

People asked not to be named because they feared actions the military might take against Myanmar’s elected leader or the hundreds of other government officials who were detained after the putsch Monday.

The coup brought back dark memories of decades of military rule and economic stagnation in Myanmar, when the country fell far behind its Asian neighbors in economic development, education and health.

However, the new junta was careful to project an image of normality. Tuesday’s edition of the government newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar included a photo of General Min Aung Hlaing, the military commander-in-chief, chairing a group of officers in green uniforms.

After being cut off in the first hours after the coup, internet services were operating mostly in Yangon and other major cities on Tuesday, but most mobile phone services were still down.

Coup was condemned by US, EU and UN, with the Biden administration threatening to impose sanctions over the country.

The putsch was launched when one of the poorest countries in Asia was already grappling with the health and economic impacts of Covid-19. After reporting an increase in coronavirus cases last year, new infections were on the decline and the country has begun a vaccination program last week.

General Min Aung Hlaing’s office pledged to maintain the vaccination program, saying it would be “effectively implemented with vigor”. He also pledged to help businesses hit by the pandemic and revive a peace process with ethnic minorities that stalled under Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration.

“Things are still fresh and raw so we are still evaluating,” said Melvyn Pun, CEO of Yoma Strategic Holdings, a conglomerate with companies in real estate, financial services and consumer goods. “It appears there was a clear intention to ensure the status quo and business continuity.”

Branches of the group’s Yoma Bank reopened on Tuesday after closing the day before when the telecommunications shutdown disrupted ATMs, he added. Other banks have also opened their doors, with limited withdrawals.

Human rights groups struggle to establish basic facts about the fate of those detained. Some government officials appeared to have been offered the option of voluntarily resigning after the coup, including Myint Htwe, the Minister of Health.

Publication of the National League for Democracy in Power A declaration Monday attributed to Aung San Suu Kyi who called on citizens to reject the coup and “resist it accordingly”. There were no immediate reports of large protests in a country that has seen significant protests by civil society activists, Buddhist monks and other groups after past repressions.

Analysts warned, however, that the situation was volatile.

“We are in a situation where there was already a lot of dry tinder because of the economic impact of Covid and a lot of people are suffering, especially the most vulnerable,” said Richard Horsey, political analyst and Myanmar adviser to the International Crisis Group.

“The fact that this country in the last few months has not seen more anger expressed openly is because the people had a government they trusted and a leader they worshiped, and now it ‘is finished.

Follow John Reed on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites



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