Residents rush to stock up on food, checkpoints on the roads of the capital, Naypyidaw, and a rally in support of the army in Rangoon … so was the scene in Myanmar hours after the coup.
This coincided with anger among those who felt that their hopes for the country’s democratic future had been stolen.
“It’s very disturbing. I don’t want a coup,” said a 64-year-old Burmese man in the town of Hlaing as he stood with a crowd outside a grocery store.
“I have witnessed many transformations in this country and I was looking forward to a better future,” he said, refusing to reveal his name for fear of being subjected to retaliatory measures.
Myanmar returns to its isolation
The coup was expected for days. However, his occurrence caused a shock in Myanmar, as roads leading to its main international airport were closed and communications cut off, and the country returned to its isolation only a decade after leaving it.
The military arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, who is de facto prime minister, early Monday, hours before the newly elected members of parliament were due to take office for the first time since the November vote in which her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in it.
By 08:30 a.m. (02:00 GMT), a state of emergency was declared and former General Myint Sui was appointed as acting president, returning the country to direct military rule after experiencing democracy for nearly a decade.
Concern prevailed as authorities cut off internet and cell phone services across the country.
In Rangoon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, residents rushed to grocery stores in their neighborhoods to stock up on rice, oil, and instant noodles, while banks were temporarily closed due to a communication cutoff.
However, with the exception of the police, the security forces did not have a large presence in the cities and did not shed any blood.
The armed demonstrations, tanks, and helicopters were more evident in the north in the vicinity of Naypyidaw, where armored vehicles blocked the main roads leading to Parliament.
“I think we must prepare for the worst.”
Suu Kyi’s party won more than 80 percent of the vacant parliament seats, a ratio that seemed unacceptable to the army that maintained the most important positions in government and the authority to make all security and defense decisions, and 25 percent of the seats in parliament exclusively allocated to it.
The film director in Rangoon Lamine Ou, 35, expressed his “shock” even though he had been expecting the coup after it had been reported for a week.
“I take any opportunity to vote very seriously because something like this might happen in this country,” he said, adding that his neighborhood in Yanken is trying to keep it calm. “I think we must prepare for the worst,” he said.
Trucks carrying army supporters were seen passing through Rangoon’s main streets, while passengers waved the country’s flag and the national anthem was chanted in support of the coup.
A small group of people gathered near the Shrine of the Martyrs in the center of Rangoon, where they danced to the rhythm of a song that says, “We bravely show the Burmese blood.”
Meanwhile, videos posted on Facebook showed local and foreign journalists were beaten during another pro-army demonstration near the “Seoul” Temple.
Myanmar is on the “edge of the knife”
“This is something that crosses borders … and is unfair,” said a member of the Suu Kyi party who spoke to France Press and asked not to be identified, noting that she is being held in an official compound in Naypyidaw with dozens of other deputies.
For weeks, the military reported irregularities in the voting process and demanded that the Election Commission release voter lists, while Army Chief Min Aung Hling threatened to annul the country’s constitution.
By Monday, the military declared a year-long state of emergency, pledging to hold new “free and fair multiparty general elections” and to eventually hand over power.
But a country where the military has violently crushed the democracy movement in the past is “at the edge of the knife,” according to independent analyst David Matheson.
He added that millions of those who voted for Suu Kyi’s party would feel “anger and fear of a power grab that threatens to undo the gains of the past ten years.”