Pro-government protests likely following military coup in Myanmar

Pro-government protests likely following military coup in Myanmar

- Geopolitical Risk - Intelligence

02-02-2021


In brief

  • The military has taken control of Myanmar, declaring a state of emergency before the first session of a new parliament.
  • There is a prospect of pro-government unrest, given Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling National League for Democracy party retain popular support.
  • Clashes between government supporters and security forces may occur in Yangon and other major cities, amid an increase in military deployments.

Background

The military has declared a one-year state of emergency and that the top army commander is now in charge of the country following a coup against the government. The announcement came after the military detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior politicians from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The military said it will hold new elections and hand over power at the end of the state of emergency.

The military takeover came shortly before the first session of a new parliament on 1 February, which has now been suspended. The army has removed 24 ministers from their posts and installed their own cabinet, naming 11 replacements including in finance, health, the interior and foreign affairs. There had been weeks of tensions between the military and the government following a general election in November 2020 that returned the NLD to power in a landslide victory. The army-backed opposition alleged voter fraud in at least 174 seats, which the military used to justify the coup.

Potential for Unrest

The military has stepped up its security presence in major cities. While there have been no reports of major violence so far, there is a heightened risk of civil unrest to oppose the military’s action. Supporters of the NLD are most likely to protest against the coup in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. The number of protests will probably remain limited to the hundreds, amid concerns over a forceful military response. The military are likely to use tear gas and occasional live fire against demonstrators, especially if prot est numbers increase to the thousands in the coming days.

Heavy-handed measures against protesters and a violent dispersal of rallies, including arrests and deaths, could see protests spread to cities beyond Yangon. However, protests are likely to be limited in scale if the military releases some NLD politicians. Such a scenario becomes more likely in the event of Myanmar’s election commission announcing a re-run of the election in the 174 contested seats.

PGI will continue to provide regular updates via the Risk Portal.


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