Myanmar: State of emergency declared as military takes control of country

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Myanmar: State of emergency declared as military takes control of country

The military in Myanmar has seized control of the country and declared a year-long state of emergency.

The country's current leader Aung San Suu Kyi - who won an official and fair election - has been removed from power and arrested and now the army troops are patrolling the streets and a night-time curfew is in force.

The UK and US, as well as the United Nations, have criticised and opposed the military seizing power.

In a statement, Aung San Suu Kyi urged her supporters to "not accept this" and "protest against the coup".

What's the current situation in Myanmar?
soldier-blocking-road-myanmar.Getty Images
Soldiers have been seen blocking roads in Myanmar

In the early hours of Monday 1 February, the army's official TV station said power had been handed over, and the military commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, was now in charge of the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party were arrested in a series of raids. It is not clear where they are being held.

Soldiers are patrolling the streets and have blocked roads in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and the main city, Yangon. No major violence has been reported.

Communications such as international TV stations, the internet and phone services have stopped working or been disrupted. Services, such as banks, have also been closed. A curfew is now reportedly in effect from 8pm local time to 6am.

A person who lives in Yangon told Reuters news agency: "I don't know what is happening. I am a bit scared."

Why is this happening now?
Myanmar people line up in front of a ATM machine of a closed bank in Yangon, Myanmar, 01 February 2021EPA
Queues formed at cash machines in Yangon and other cities, as banks closed

The takeover by the military is thought to be a result of the country's recent election, which took place in November last year.

The results of the election showed that Aung San Suu Kyi's party - the National League for Democracy (NLD) party - won by a lot, earning 83% of available seats in government.

The opposition party, which is backed by the military - called the Union Solidarity and Development party - won just 33 seats out of a possible 476.

But, the military refused to accept the results and claimed it had found millions of voting errors.

There has been little evidence to support these allegations, and the country's official election commission has rejected them, saying the election was "done fairly and free".

For a long time the military had ruled in Myanmar - for almost 50 years until 2011 when the country started to move to a more democratic system. Meaning people in the country could vote to decide who they wanted to rule.

In 2015 the National League for Democracy - led by Aung San Suu Kyi - won enough seats to form a democratic government. The election in November was only Myanmar's second ever election since the end of military rule in 2011.

The military now says it will use its emergency powers to organise a new vote.

Who is Aung San Suu Kyi, and what will happen to her?
Aung San Suu KyiGetty Images
Aung San Suu Kyi often wears fresh flowers in her hair

Aung San Suu Kyi is 75 years old, and has been the leader of Myanmar since 2015.

She was the daughter of a general, Aung San, who was seen as a hero by many in the country. He was the main man behind securing Burma's independence from British rule in 1947, but was killed when his daughter was just two-years-old.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010 for protesting against military rule in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi at a coronavirus vaccination clinic in January, Naypyitaw, MyanmarReuters
Aung San Suu Kyi, seen here at a coronavirus vaccination clinic in January, is Myanmar's de facto leader

She was celebrated by many as a beacon of democracy around the world, and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

She was released in 2010, and in November 2015 she led the NLD to a landslide victory in Myanmar's first openly contested election for 25 years.

However, in recent years, Aung San Suu Kyi's leadership has been widely criticised due to her treatment of the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority. Hundreds of thousands of them have fled the country and those that remain have been treated very badly.

But with the military now in full control of Myanmar, many people are worried that things could get even worse.

Who are the Rohingya, and what does the coup mean for them?
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What is happening in Myanmar? (Report from 2017)

The Rohingya are one of the many ethnic groups in Myanmar, and Rohingya Muslims represent the largest percentage of Muslims in the country.

They have their own language and culture and say they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations.

However, Rohingya people are not treated in the same way as other people living in Myanmar.

The government has treated them badly for many years, and does not recognise them as proper citizens of the country, so they cannot access the same medical treatment, education and basic services as other people who live there.

The United Nations (UN) has described them as one of the world's most persecuted people.

On 25 August 2017, violence broke out between the Myanmar army and Rohingya fighters, after Rohingya fighters attacked the police and government soldiers.

Hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands were forced to flee from their homes.

A charity called Medecins Sans Frontieres has estimated that around 600,000 Rohingya people fled Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh after the fighting broke out.

The United Nations top human rights official said that he thinks the way the Rohingya people have been treated shows how the authorities are trying to get rid of them from Myanmar.

Although Aung San Suu Kyi does not directly control the military, she has been criticised by many for not doing enough to prevent what is happening or for properly holding the Myanmar military to account for accusations of abuse against Rohingya people.

Some people are worried that with the military now in power in Myanmar, things will get worse for the Rohingya people still in the country.

How have other world leaders reacted?
press-secretary-white-houseGetty Images
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave a news briefing about the US response to what's happening in Myanmar

World leaders and human rights experts have been quick to condemn the military for their actions.

The United States has said it: "opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all those arrested, and said the US "stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy".

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and Aung San Suu Kyi's "unlawful imprisonment".

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