From 1962 until 2011, Myanmar (Known as Burma at the time) was ruled by the country’s military, with a quasi-communist government known as the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma. Various military officers promoted one another to ruling positions, there were no elections, and most industry was brought under government control by force. The country developed a reputation for both pro-democracy protests and the violent suppression of demonstrations. For instance, a nationwide demonstration by pro-democracy students in 1988 had a death toll in the thousands, and prompted a coup within the military that changed Burma to Myanmar, saw elections held for the first time. The National League for Democracy (NLD) won 392 out of 492 seats in parliament, but the military refused to acknowledge their authority or cede power. Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the NLD, was placed under house arrest, and the League was banned.

In 2008, under heavy international pressure, a few modest moves towards democracy were finally allowed to take root. The military government, or junta, wasn’t dissolved until 2011. In 2012, the NLD won 43 of the 45 available seats in the revised parliament, and in 2015, they won an absolute majority. In 2016, Htin Kyaw was elected as the country’s first non-military president since 1962, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who is constitutionally banned from being president, was made state counselor, a role similar to prime minister.

Through each step of those, despite international oversight into each election since 2012, the Myanmar military has claimed election fraud. And in 2020, when the NLD again won super-majorities in both houses of parliament, the army alleged massive voter fraud and made threats to “take action.”

Early in the morning on Monday, February 1, a military convoy arrived at Parliament, took State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the NLD into custody, and declared a “state of emergency” giving all governing power to the military for one year. They placed military chief Min Aung Hlaing in charge, and are currently saying they will host a “fair” election in one year’s time. But they said that in 1962, too.

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