On 1 February, Myanmar’s (previously Burma) military seized power of the country and declared a state of emergency, to last for one year, due to escalating tensions over the result of November’s parliamentary elections, which it believes to be fraudulent. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces has claimed power while State Counsellor Aung San Suu Ky, President Win Myint and other senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) have been detained in the capital of Naypyidaw.
In a televised broadcast, the military claimed that election voter lists were found to have ‘huge discrepancies’; the statement noted that there was ‘terrible fraud’ identified in the voter list, which ‘runs contrary to ensuring a stable democracy’. “Unless this problem is resolved, it will obstruct the path to democracy and it must therefore be resolved according to the law,” the announcement said. “Therefore, the state of emergency is declared in accordance with article 417 of the 2008 constitution.”
Suu Kyi has called on the public to protest against the military’s actions. A statement from the NLD baring Suu Kyi’s name read: “The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship. I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”
Protests have begun in neighbouring country Thailand, where Myanmar citizens have gathered outside their embassy to demonstrate their outrage at the military coup.
Travel disruptions and a sense of unease
No countries have yet announced plans to repatriate any of their citizens from Myanmar, but the sense of unease in the country is growing, where military ruling is not unfamiliar – the past military ruling lasted from 1962 to 2011, during which time international travellers were urged to avoid travel to and through the country due to the ongoing political unrest.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has updated its website for UK citizens travelling abroad, advising against all but essential travel across Myanmar based on the recent political events, as well as the heightened risk of Covid-19 at the moment. The FCDO also warned about possible disruption to ATMs and advised British nationals to ‘stay home and stay safe’.
Elsewhere, the US government has urged Americans to ‘exercise increased caution due to areas of civil unrest and armed conflict’. For the time being, however, travel to the region has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
ITIJwill continue to monitor how the situation develops with regards to travel risks.