A Feb. 1 coup by Myanmar's powerful military puts an end to a halting experiment in political liberalization and sparks widespread street protests in a land that recently emerged from 50 years of army rule.

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Civilian deaths

People have been killed since the Feb. 1 military coup.

  • March 2:
    24- Thiha Zaw (also known as Naung Naung), 16: Shot by soldiers in Satthwar village track of Taungdwingyi.

    Feb. 28:
    The United Nations has reported that at least 18 people were killed. RFA has been able to confirm 15 deaths, which are listed here.
    23- Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing, 23: Shot by police in Hledan Junction, Yangon.
    22- Zin Zin Htet, 20: Shot by police in Hledan Junction, Yangon.
    21- Tin Nwe Yee, 59: Shot by police in Hledan Junction, Yangon.
    20- Hein Htut Aung, 23: Shot by police in Thingangyun, Yangon.
    19- Kyi Hlaing Min (also known as Gaunggyi), 18: Shot by police in Bago.
    18- Sithu Soe (also known as Ko Soe), 17: Shot by police in Bago.
    17- Nay Lin Oo (also known as Nay Myo Oo), 34: Shot by police in Pakokku.
    16- Lwin Lwin Oo, 33: Shot by police in Dawei.
    15- Pe Than (also known as Naung Ngo), 38: Shot by police in Dawei.
    14- Banyar Aung, 39: Shot by police in Dawei.
    13- Than Win, 36: Shot by police in Dawei.
    12- Maung Maung Oo, 40: Shot by police in Mandalay.
    11- Kyaw Htet Khaung, 28: Shot by police in Mandalay
    10- Daisy (also known as Ramzambee), 32: Shot by police in Mandalay.
    9- Zin Myo Thu (also known as Abdul Rasheed), 20: Shot by police in Mawlamyine.

    Feb. 24:
    8- Ko Yarzar Aung, 24: Died in custody after being shot in the thigh during a protest in Mandalay and detained.

    Feb. 20
    7- Maung Wai Yan Tun, 17: Shot in the head during a protest in Mandalay.
    6- Ko Kyi Soe, 48: Hit in the head by police during a protest in Mandalay.
    5- Ko Thet Naing Win (also known as Ko Min Min), 37: Shot in the chest during a protest in Mandalay.
    4- Ko Tin Htut Hein, 30: Shot in the head while guarding neighborhood against intruders in Shwe Pyi Thar, Yangon.

    Feb. 15:
    3- Maung Ne Ne Win Htet, 18: Hit in the head by thugs while guarding neighborhood against intruders in Myeik Township.

    Feb. 9:
    2- Ma Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, 19: Shot in the head during a protest in Naypyidaw.

    Feb. 8:
    1- Ko Ko Oo (also known as Ko Na Pwar), 32:
    Hit by a police car in Mandalay.

    This is a preliminary list confirmed by RFA as of March 2, 2021.

Who’s Who in Myanmar’s Coup

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has been Myanmar’s civilian leader since March 2016 after her National League for Democracy (NLD) won 2015 elections by a landslide. Prohibited by a military-drafted constitution from becoming president because her two sons are foreign nationals, she was installed in the custom-made position of state counselor.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burmese independence hero Aung San, and was two years old when he was assassinated. After decades living abroad, she was thrust into politics when her return home coincided with a pro-democracy uprising in 1988. She subsequently led the NLD to a landslide win in 1990 elections, only to have the military nullify the results and put her under house arrest for 15 years between 1989 and 2010.

After becoming state counselor in 2016, lawmakers from her party proposed democratic changes to the 2008 constitution, written by a former military government, but were met with resistance by military MPs who control a quarter of the seat of parliament and can veto constitutional changes that threaten their political power.

Once considered a “democracy icon” by the international community, Aung San Suu Kyi earned scorn and condemnation for her refusal to denounce a violent military-led crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in 2017. Though the campaign of terror left thousands dead and forced more than 740,000 others to seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh, she defended the military’s actions as a necessary counterinsurgency against Muslim militants who carried out deadly attacks on police outposts.

European organizations revoked Aung San Suu Kyi’s freedom awards, while the U.S. Holocaust Museum rescinded a prestigious human rights award. There were even calls to cancel the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991. But Aung San Suu Kyi remains hugely popular inside Myanmar, and was key to her party securing another landslide victory in November 2020 elections. On Feb. 1, she and others in her political circle, including President Win Myint, arrested by the military as it launched a coup.

Myint Swe, 69, is a former general who served for the past five years as first vice president after his nomination by military bloc in parliament. He was installed Feb. 1 as acting president after top figures in the NLD-led government – including President Win Myint -- were arrested and military seized power in the coup.

Giving a semblance of constitutionality to the military takeover, Myint Swe then formally transferred power to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, so the army chief has control over all branches of government for one year.

Myint Swe is an ethnic Mon ex-army lieutenant general who also served as acting president after the resignation of former president Htin Kyaw in March 2018. Before that, he served as chief minister of Yangon region from March 2011 to March 2016.

Like Min Aung Hlaing, Myint Swe is a graduate of the Defense Services Academy and rose through the ranks of the army. As a brigadier general, he commanded a light infantry division in 1997. He served as commander of Myanmar’s Southeastern Command and also as a member of the of Myanmar’s former military junta.

He subsequently became commander of the Yangon Command and was promoted to major general. In that position, he had family members of former dictator Ne Win arrested in 2002 after an alleged coup conspiracy was uncovered, then oversaw a 2004 purge of the military intelligence faction of former prime minister Gen. Khin Nyunt, and put down the pro-democracy Saffron Revolution in 2007.

Myint Swe went on to serve as chief of military security affairs in 2004 and became chief of the Bureau of Special Operations–5 in 2006. He was criticized for his actions after Cyclone Nargis, a deadly tropical cyclone that hit Myanmar in May 2008 and was the worst natural disaster in the country on record. Myanmar’s military leaders came under heavy fire for initially resisting large-scale international aid to deal with the catastrophe.

Myint Swe is also known for his harsh handling of activists in the run-up to the flawed 2010 general elections, in which an NLD boycott resulted in a sweeping victory for the pro-military USDP party.

Min Aung Hlaing, 64, rose steadily through the ranks of the country’s powerful armed forces to become the commander-in-chief in 2011, just as Myanmar began its democratic transition after decades of harsh military rule and international isolation.

He studied law at Yangon University in 1972-1974 before entering the Defense Services Academy, a training ground for future officers for all three branches of Myanmar military, and rose steadily through the ranks.

When Aung San Suu Kyi came to power in 2016, the reserved senior general became more involved in politics under the civilian-led government, posting photos, statements, and his meetings with foreign dignitaries on Facebook. He gained hundreds of thousands of followers until his social media account was removed following the army’s brutal crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state in 2017.

Despite the state counselor’s defense of the military over the genocide allegations, tensions between Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing have only intensified in the past two years and came to a head after the government-appointed election commission rejected military claims of massive vote fraud in November 2020 elections that saw the military’s proxy party slump to a humiliating defeat.

In the days before the military’s power-grab, Min Aung Hlaing had issued veiled threats of a coup, but he still caught the country and the international community by surprise on Feb. 1 when a new parliament was due to convene. With his coup, he upended a decade of democratic reform and deepened the pariah status of the armed forces he commands.

Win Myint, 69, became president in March 2018, a week after the resignation of his predecessor Htin Kyaw over health concerns, and he held the position until his forced removal from office in the Feb. 1 military coup.

Before parliament elected him as president, Win Myint has served as speaker in the lower house since 2012. He was appointed a vice president prior to his elevation in a sign that he had been tipped for the presidency.

The close aide and loyalist of Aung San Suu Kyi studied geology in Yangon and later became a High Court senior attorney in 1981 and a lawyer of Myanmar’s Supreme Court. Four years later he became a High Court advocate.

He was part of a democracy uprising in 1988 and was briefly jailed by the military junta. After he was freed from prison, Win Myint won a parliamentary seat in Ayeyarwady region’s Danubyu township in the 1990 elections — the first multiparty elections since 1960. The elections were swept by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD, but the military junta refused to recognize the results and effectively ruled until 2011.

As the country began democratic reforms, Win Myint a lower house seat representing Ayeyarwady region’s Pathein constituency in 2012 by-elections and later became secretary of parliament’s rule of law committee. He was elected as a lower house lawmaker representing Yangon’s Tamwe township in general elections in 2015. A year later, he became speaker of the lower house, a position he held until 2018.

Timeline of Events
Relevant to Myanmar Feb 1st, 2020 Coup

  • Nov. 8, 2015

    The NLD wins a sweeping victory in general elections that were the first openly held since 1990. The military retained significant power under a constitution that also barred Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency. Her government circumvents the restrictions by creating the State Counselor position for her.

  • Aug. 14, 2020

    General Min Aung Hlaing tells a meeting of pro-military parties that he is “brave enough to do anything. Anything that could have a negative impact on the country, the people, and the future of the military [is my concern].”

  • Nov. 2, 2020

    The military casts doubt on the ability of the Union Election Commission (UEC) to address their concerns about the Nov. 8 election. “Weakness and deficiencies which were never seen in the previous elections are appearing now. They can have adverse impacts on the image of the election.”

  • Nov. 3, 2020

    Military chief Min Aung Hlaing says “In 2015 I said that the UEC had the final say on the election results and we would accept it. This time it seems that we have to be very cautious. I don’t want it to happen.”

  • Nov. 5, 2020

    Military threatens to impeach president Win Myint and says the Constitution guarantees the army’s status as the “guardian.”

  • Nov. 8, 2020

    Min Aung Hlaing casts his ballot and tells reporters “I will accept an election result that reflects the people’s will.”

  • Nov. 8, 2020

    The ruling NLD wins an outright majority of 396 total seats in parliament, compared to the military-backed USDP’s 33 seats.

  • Nov. 30, 2020

    The military announces it will “review” the election process after claiming several disputes at polling sites across the country. A Tatmadaw affiliated news team says the military is reviewing balloting in 218 townships where military personnel and their families cast votes.

  • Dec. 7, 2020

    The UEC rejects the military’s demand to hand over election-related documents, citing a lack of formal complaints, and says it will hand over evidence to subcommittees “only when inspections are made [following] electoral complaints.”

  • Dec. 10, 2020

    Military news outlet Tatmadaw True News Information Team attacks the UEC and says the military’s request was legal, adding that the UEC should remove all doubts about the election by investigating the military’s claims.

  • Dec. 23, 2020

    The military moves ahead without the UEC and releases its own “findings” of irregularities in races where the USDP suffered defeats. The report claims more than 7.6 million cases of illegal voting, an assertion rejected by election authorities.

  • Jan. 8, 2021

    Min Aung Hlaing tells a gathering of military leaders: “In conducting an assessment after the election, unfair and dishonest practices were found.”

  • Jan. 11, 2021

    Unelected military lawmakers USDP representatives, along with some independents and ethnic party members, call on the speaker to call a special session of Parliament to address the election concerns.

  • Jan. 12, 2021

    The speaker rejects the call for a special session and says that the military and USDP attempt to take electoral fraud claims to parliament is “not relevant” because the UEC has the final authority to resolve those disputes.

  • Jan. 12, 2021

    Min Aung Hlaing reportedly brings up election disputes with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi as he visits Myanmar.. Wang’s response is unknown.

  • Jan. 14, 2021

    The military raises doubts about the constitutionality of the speaker for rejection of a special session, and insists that the request was constitutional.

  • Jan. 20, 2021

    The military calls on the UEC or parliament to prove that the November election was free and fair so that it can accept that result. “If the election can be proved free, fair and transparent, it will reflect the true wishes of the people and the Tatmadaw and certain political parties will accept the results,” it says.

  • Jan. 26, 2021

    Military Spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun warns the army will “take action” over election disputes.

  • Jan. 29, 2021

    The UEC rejects the military’s allegations of fraud in the elections, finding no evidence to support the claims.

  • Feb. 1, 2021

    The military takes control of the country for one year, citing the government’s failure to act against its claims of voter fraud and refusal to postpone the November elections or the new session of parliament. Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Myint and scores of top officials are arrested.

  • Feb. 1, 2021

    Aung San Suu Kyi releases a message to the public using the NLD Chair Facebook page urging the people to resist military coup. U Win Htein, a well-known NLD supporter, called for peaceful opposition to the coup. “I urge people not to accept the coup by the military, and resist it resoundingly,” the statement said.

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