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What can be done about the military coup in Myanmar?

Global condemnation has gripped social media following a military coup in Myanmar, in which senior officials from the ruling party, including de facto president Aung San Suu Kyi, were arrested. After the detentions, the Myanmar military announced a state of emergency to be put in place for one year.

Today was supposed to mark the beginning of a new parliamentary term in which new members were to be sworn in after November’s elections. These were elections that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won with a landslide victory. But in a statement released on Facebook by the communications team, the military in Myanmar said that its move was necessary to – in their words – “preserve stability in the country”.

Euronews asked Murray Hiebert, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, what impact, if any, further sanctions would have on Myanmar’s military.

“The Myanmar military has lived under sanctions for their previous coups for decades, and it didn’t seem to have much impact on them. It just kept the country poor and impoverished. There are already some sanctions by some European countries and the Americans over the Rohingya atrocities in 2017 and 2018,” clarified Hiebert.

“But I guess the international community could go a little further and sanction some of the military companies. But in the end, there’s also a competition between China and the international community for the hearts and minds of Southeast Asia. And it’s difficult to imagine that if Myanmar gets sanctioned again, it won’t turn increasingly to China for economic and political support.”

They have also promised for free and fair elections to take place once this state of emergency has been lifted. But a month since the announcement, there was a lot of confusion, and that was largely because we saw internet connectivity and telecommunications outages across Myanmar. Netblocks noting that at around eight o’clock local time, internet connectivity fell to around 50 percent of normal levels.

That initially led to a lot of UN special rapporteurs for human rights expressing their concerns about what they said was an “ominous situation” in the country. And in the hours since, we’ve seen a lot of condemnation from EU leaders, the likes of the European Council president Charles Michel, who on Twitter called for a release of all those people who had been detained, strongly condemning the military coup, and saying that the outcome of those elections in November must be respected and that the democratic process must be restored.

It is also worth noting that EU institutions have not actually named Aung Sang Suu Kyi in their statements of condemnation. She has recently been widely criticised for a perceived lack of action and almost acceptance of the mistreatment of the Rohingya minority Muslims in Myanmar. In September 2020 she was sanctioned and stripped of the list of Sakharov prize winners for democracy, for her actions relating to the Rohingya Muslims. But across the board, we’ve seen a lot of condemnation from EU officials summed up perhaps by EU foreign policy chief – Josep Borell who said: “Myanmar’s people want democracy and the European Union is standing by them for this unrest.”

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