Monday, February 1, 2021

Nepal hopes to see democratic and constitutional process restored soon in Myanmar

 Though, government itself is under scrutiny for its unconstitutional move, it has expressed hope that the democratic and constitutional process in Myanmar will be restored soon.

Issuing a press note in response to the military takeover in Myanmar today, the Foreign Ministry said that Nepal has been closely following the recent developments in Myanmar. “We believe that all parties involved will respect the will of the Myanmar people and hope that the democratic and constitutional process will be restored soon,” the press note reads, adding that Nepal is equally concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the detained civilian leaders including president U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. “We call for their immediate release.”

Suu Kyi, along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy party, were detained by the military in early morning raids.

The army, however, claimed that it had carried out the detentions in response to ‘election fraud’, handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year, according to a statement on a military-owned television station. 

Governments and international organisations immediately denounced the military coup, saying it sets back the limited democratic reforms Myanmar has made. The United Nations said the developments (in Myanmar) were a ‘serious blow to democratic reforms’ and urged all leaders to refrain from violence and respect human rights. The United States, Britain, Australia and the European Union condemned the military’s coup and detentions and its declaration of a state of emergency. India also said it expresses ‘deep concern’ over the reports of an unfolding military coup in Myanmar. However, China said it ‘noted’ what happened in Myanmar.

The Military coup in Myanmar today, however, comes as a grim reminder for Nepalis of a royal coup exactly 16 years ago on February 1, 2005, when the then king Gyanendra had assumed absolute power, declared himself the chair of the council of ministers and put political party leaders in house arrest. Then King Gyanendra had also cut off telephone and internet connections and declared a state of emergency like the Myanmar military ruler did today. The media was also put under military censorship and army men took over the newsroom of the media houses in Kathmandu.

Apart from media censorship, Myanmar’s military has also taken control of the country under a one-year state of emergency. The announcement on military-owned Myawaddy TV cited Article 417 of the country’s constitution, which allows the military to take over in times of emergency. The announcer said the coronavirus crisis and the government’s failure to postpone November elections were reasons for the emergency. The military drafted the constitution in 2008 and retains power under the charter at the expense of democratic and civilian rule. Human Rights Watch has described the clause as a ‘coup mechanism in waiting.’

The constitution also reserves key cabinet ministries and 25 per cent of the seats in Parliament for the military, a portion that limits the power of a civilian government and rules out amending the charter without military support. 

In November elections, Suu Kyi’s party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of Parliament. The state Union Election Commission has confirmed the result but the military claimed there were millions of irregularities in voter lists in 314 townships that could have let voters cast multiple ballots or commit other ‘voting malpractice.’

Immediately after the coup notice, residents flocked to ATMs and food vendors, while some shops and homes removed the symbols of Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, that typically adorn the streets and walls of the city.

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