Conflicts & War

Fear of prosecution and power hungry: What drove Myanmar’s coup?

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, Feb 13 (efe-epa).- No-one knows why the head of Myanmar’s armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, led a coup against the civilian government on 1 February but observers have offered some insights that range between a simple power grab and fear of future prosecution.

The men who seized power at the beginning of the month are the same who opened Myanmar to the possibility of a democratic transition following decades of iron-fisted rule between 1962-2011.

One of the biggest question marks over the latest coup is the fact the military already wielded considerable power within the framework of the civilian political system.

Min Aung Hlaing’s power grab has been met with nationwide protests and heavy criticism from the international community. The United States has already drawn up sanctions and the European Union is likely to follow suit.

The International Crisis Group, an NGO that monitors conflicts, highlighted the frayed relationship between Min Aung Hlaing and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the ousted de facto leader of Myanmar who remains under house arrest. Her National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the November elections.

“The cohabitation has since been uneasy but relatively stable, though the relationship between the country’s top two figures (…) is known to be toxic,” the group said in a statement.

David Scott Mathieson, an independent analyst and expert on Myanmar, said: “Fundamentally he no longer wanted to share power with civilians and see his nemesis Suu Kyi rule the country, even with a sweeping electoral mandate. This is a naked power grab.”

The rumblings of a possible coup came a few days in advance when Min Aung Hlaing and the Union Solidarity and Development Party, created by the former military junta, claimed that 10 million votes in the November elections, a quarter of the total, had been fraudulent.

The electoral commission and international observers refuted this claim.

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