Myanmar coup: A year of protest, reprisals and diplomatic inertia

Since seizing power on February 1, 2021, the military regime has used force against the opposition to its rule and failed to secure diplomatic recognition.

A young man in a red checked shirt shouts slogans and raises his arm in the air in front of the NLD's red flag
The February 1 coup has fuelled an anti-coup movement that the military has tried to suppress with force [Stringer/EPA]

February 1 marks a year since the military seized control of Myanmar.

The generals made their move on the day the new parliament – elected the previous November – was due to sit for the first time and all the politicians had congregated in the capital Naypyidaw.

They first detained Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s elected leader, and senior members of her government before announcing their coup.

The move prompted widespread anger in a country, which had been making a gradual, if sometimes stuttering shift, towards democracy.

Protests emerged within days, alongside a mass disobedience movement.

The military has responded with characteristic force and nearly 1,500 people have now been killed in the crackdown, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit that has been tracking the unrest.

Frustrated with the lack of progress, some people have taken up arms, and the National Unity Government, established by elected lawmakers and pro-democracy groups, has set up the People’s Defence Force.

A year since the coup and with little sign of international consensus to restore the civilian government, the situation looks increasingly precarious.

Here is a timeline of events over the past 12 months.

February 1

The military detains 76-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy, which had been reelected in a landslide election in November 2020.

A state of emergency is declared and army chief Min Aung Hlaing takes control. Aung San Suu Kyi’s location is unknown.

February 2

First stirrings of protest. People bang pots and pans and honk car horns in protest against the coup.

February 3

Mass civil disobedience is declared with government workers, including teachers and doctors, walking off the job.

The police announce the first charges against Aung San Suu Kyi – the illegal use of walkie talkies.

Women in white hold a hand drawn portrait of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing who was shot in the head by the military during a demonstration in Naypyidaw
Women hold a portrait of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing. The 20-year-old was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyidaw and died 10 days later [Stringer/Reuters]

February 6

The generals block Twitter and Instagram followed by an internet shutdown.

February 9

Police are accused of using excessive and lethal force against protesters in Naypyidaw. Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, 20, is shot in the head and dies 10 days later. The military bans gatherings in townships across 10 regions.

February 12

Tens of thousands of people in Yangon and elsewhere in Myanmar join the anti-coup protests, the biggest crowd since the generals’ power grab after the United States imposed sanctions on coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and several other senior generals for their roles in the coup.

February 25

Facebook and Instagram ban the Myanmar military and its network of businesses from using its platforms because of the deadly violence.

February 26

United Nations ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun calls for the “strongest possible action” against the military regime and ends his UN speech with the three-fingered salute adopted by the protesters. A few days later, the coup leaders announce he has been fired for “betraying” the country. The UN maintains Kyaw Moe Tun’s credentials.

March 10

The UN Security Council unanimously calls for a reversal of the military coup in Myanmar and condemns the military’s violence against peaceful protesters.

March 11

The UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar says at least 70 people have been killed in the military crackdown and suggests the military’s violence against peaceful protesters could amount to crimes against humanity.

The country of Myanmar is being controlled by a murderous, illegal regime,” Thomas Andrews told the UN Human Rights Council.

March 22

The European Union imposes travel bans and asset freezes on 11 people linked to the coup, including Min Aung Hlaing and acting president Myint Swe.

March 27

Troops kill at least 160 people as the military holds a traditional parade to mark Armed Forces Day.

March 28

About 3,000 villagers from eastern Karen State flee into Thailand after the army launches air attacks on territory controlled by the Karen National Union armed group.

April 1

Aung San Suu Kyi is charged with offences under the colonial-era official secrets law.

April 16

Politicians forced out of office by the military announce they have formed a National Unity Government

April 24

Min Aung Hlaing travels to Jakarta for a summit with Southeast Asian leaders. The armed forces chief signs a five-point plan to end the violence and seek a solution to the political crisis.

May 24

Aung San Suu Kyi appears in court for the first time since her government was overthrown.

Danny Fenster, 37, the managing editor of the Frontier Myanmar current affairs magazine, is detained at Yangon airport as he prepares to fly to Malaysia.

Aung San Suu Kyi sits in court with a female police officer behind her in her first public appearance since the February 1 coup
Aung San Suu Kyi (far left)with deposed president Win Myint and Myo Aung was not seen until May 24 when state television broadcast her appearance in a military court. Proceedings have been closed and her lawyers banned from talking about the case [MRTV via Reuters]


August 1

Min Aung Hlaing appoints himself prime minister in the military’s State Administration Council. He repeats a pledge to hold elections by 2023.

August 6

The United States charges two Myanmar citizens over a plot to injure or kill the country’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun.

Aug 18

The death toll as a result of the security force crackdowns on protests since the coup reaches 1,000, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

September 6

The military releases Ashin Wirathu, a nationalist Buddhist monk notorious for his anti-Muslim tirades, after dropping sedition charges brought by Aung San Suu Kyi’s deposed government.

A military statement said all outstanding charges against the man once dubbed by Time magazine “The Face of Buddhist Terror” has been dropped.

October 16

In an unprecedented move, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) excludes Min Aung Hlaing from their summit, saying the military has failed to make progress on its plan to end the crisis.

November 15

Fenster is suddenly freed and returned to the United States, three days after being found guilty of charges including incitement, sedition and “terrorism” and sentenced to 11 years in jail.

November 16

Myanmar charges Aung San Suu Kyi and 15 others with “electoral fraud and lawless actions” over the November 2020 elections.

The NLD won the election in a landslide and the Elections Commission said there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

December 6

A closed court finds elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty of charges of incitement and breaching coronavirus restrictions in the first verdict in a dozen cases brought against the Nobel Prize winner. She is sentenced to four years detention at an undisclosed location, but the sentence is later reduced after state TV announces Min Aung Hlaing has given her a “pardon”.

December 24

The UN accuses the military of killing dozens of civilians in eastern Myanmar after raiding a village on Christmas Eve.

Cambodian PM Hun Sen and Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing seen on separate screens during a virtual meeting. Hun Sen is wearing a suit and blue tie while Min Aung Hlaing is sitting on a throne-like chair and wearing a traditional outfit in white
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, became the first foreign leader to travel to Myanmar when he visited Naypyidaw in January. The trip triggered outrage among anti-coup protesters and disquiet within ASEAN. Hun Sen followed up with a video call with Min Aung Hlaing just over two weeks later [Cambodia Government House via Reuters]

January 7

The military rolls out the red carpet for Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen as he becomes the first foreign leader to visit Myanmar.

January 10

Aung San Suu Kyi is given an extra four years detention after being found guilty of charges including the possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies.

January 14

The military announces five more corruption charges against Aung San Suu Kyi.

Source: Al Jazeera