Timeline: Two years of killings and arrests since Myanmar coup

February 1 marks two years since the military, led by army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, seized control of Myanmar.

In the past year, the generals have stepped up their efforts to wipe out all opposition to their rule.

The country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been convicted of a litany of charges in proceedings that took place behind closed doors and faces the rest of her life behind bars.

In a decision that shocked the world, the military also hanged four anti-coup activists — the first use of the death penalty in more than 30 years.

It has also turned increasingly to air power in its crackdown on the anti-coup movement, and has deepened its ties with Russia, a key weapons supplier.

Despite the continued crackdown, diplomatic efforts to end the violence and restore the civilian government have largely failed to make progress.

“It’s critical we reflect on the international community’s myriad failures in response to a crisis that remains as urgent today as it was two years ago,” Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, said in a statement.

“It is never too late for the international community to learn from its mistakes. The UN Security Council could follow its recent and first-ever resolution on Myanmar with a comprehensive and ongoing plan of action that includes measures like a global arms embargo and a referral to the International Criminal Court.”

People took to the streets soon after the generals seized power, but two years on, thousands have been killed and many more forced from their homes in a dire humanitarian crisis File: AP Photo]

Here is a timeline of events since the military seized power in 2021:

February 1

The military detains Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy, which had been re-elected in a landslide in November 2020.

A state of emergency is declared, and army chief Min Aung Hlaing seizes control.

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.

February 9

Police are accused of using excessive and lethal force against protesters in Naypyidaw, the capital. 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. The United States imposes its first sanctions on coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and several other senior generals for their roles in the coup. The European Union, Canada and others follow.

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 has continued to maintain Kyaw Moe Tun’s credentials despite pressure from the military regime.

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.

The next day, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, tells the UN’s Human Rights Council the country is “being controlled by a murderous, illegal regime“.

March 27

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

April 16

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

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.

She faces a variety of charges, including the illegal import of walkie-talkies and breaking COVID-19 rules during the 2020 election.

Health workers in blue medical gowns and face masks join mass protests against the military in Myanmar. The photo shows a group of workers, some women and some men, holding up the three finger salute.
Healthcare workers joined the civil disobedience movement declared days after the coup [File: Stringer/Reuters]

July 26

The military cancels the result of the 2020 election, claiming millions of cases of fraud.

International and domestic observers who watched the polls said there were no major irregularities.

August 1

Min Aung Hlaing appoints himself prime minister in the military’s State Administration Council. He says the military will hold elections by 2023.

August 6

The US charges two Myanmar citizens over a plot to injure or kill UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun.

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.

September 7

The NUG calls for a nationwide uprising against the generals.

“With the responsibility to protect the life and properties of the people, the National Unity Government … [has] launched a people’s defensive war against the military junta,” Duwa Lashi La, the acting president of the NUG, said in a video statement posted on Facebook.

“As this is a public revolution, all the citizens within entire Myanmar, revolt against the rule of the military terrorists led by Min Aung Hlaing in every corner of the country.”

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 five-point plan to end the crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi sits in court with a female police officer behind her in her first public appearance since the February 1, 2021 coup.
Aung San Suu Kyi has rarely been seen since she was arrested by the military when they seized power in February 2021. She was shown by state television appearing in court on May 24, 2021, and has since been sentenced to jail for a total of 33 years on charges seen as politically motivated [File: MRTV via Reuters]

November 16

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

December 6

Aung San Suu Kyi is found guilty and jailed for four years on charges of “incitement” against the military, as well as breaching COVID-19 protocols. The sentence is later cut to two years.

December 24

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


January 7

The military rolls out the red carpet for Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen who becomes the first — and so far only — foreign leader to visit Myanmar since the coup.

July 25

The military executes four anti-coup activists in the first use of the death penalty in Myanmar in more than 30 years.

Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former legislator from the NLD, and prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, were hanged for their involvement in organising “brutal and inhumane terror acts”, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw were also executed.

Dozens more are on death row.

August 3

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits Myanmar amid deepening ties between Moscow and the military regime.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin sit together in large chairs with their respective national flags behind them.
The Russian foreign minister meeting the military’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Naypyidaw. The two countries have grown increasingly close since the coup [File: Russian Foreign Ministry via AFP]

September 7

Min Aung Hlaing meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Moscow-organised Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

Our relations are developing positively,” the state-owned RIA news agency quoted Putin as saying during the talks.

September 16

At least 11 children are killed and more than a dozen injured after the military bombs a school in the restive Sagaing region where it is facing sustained resistance.

The then-Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah says ASEAN needs to decide whether the five-point consensus is “still relevant” or “needs to be replaced”.

November 17

Australian economist Sean Turnell, Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, prominent business adviser and former United Kingdom Ambassador Vicky Bowman, and American Kyaw Htay Oo are among 5,774 prisoners released in an Amnesty to mark Victory Day.

“It is one bright spot in what is otherwise an incredibly dark time, where we see things going from bad to worse in Burma,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said of the amnesty, using Myanmar’s former name.

December 22

The UN Security Council adopts its first resolution on Myanmar since it was admitted to the world body as Burma in 1948, demanding an end to violence and the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Of the council’s 15 members, 12 vote in favour. China and Russia, who have supported Myanmar’s military leaders since the coup, abstain as does India.

A wide view of the UN Security Council chamber. There are delegations around a central horseshoe shaped table and a large mural on the wall behind the table.
The Security Council passed its first ever resolution on Myanmar at the end of December demanding an end to violence, the release of all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the restoration of democracy [File: Seth Wenig/AP Photo]

December 30

Aung San Suu Kyi’s trials conclude as she is handed a seven-year term for corruption. The 77-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate faces a total of 33 years in prison. The military provides no details on where she will be held.


January 5

The military frees more than 7,000 prisoners as part of an amnesty to mark 75 years of independence. Only a few are known to be political prisoners.

January 24

More than a dozen survivors of military abuses in Myanmar lodge a criminal complaint in Germany, asking prosecutors to investigate and bring to trial those responsible for committing atrocities during crackdowns on opponents of the coup and against the Rohingya minority.

“This complaint provides new evidence proving that the Myanmar military systematically killed, raped, tortured, imprisoned, disappeared, persecuted and committed other acts that amount to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in violation of German law,” said Matthew Smith, CEO and co-founder of advocacy group Fortify Rights, which filed the suit.

January 26

The UN finds that the cultivation of opium has surged since the military coup.

January 27

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar publishes a restrictive new law on political parties.

Among the measures, parties and individuals deemed to have links to “terrorism” — the military refers to its opponents in the People’s Defence Forces and NUG as “terrorists” — will be barred from standing.

February 1

Two years since the military seized power.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) estimates nearly 3,000 anti-coup activists and civilians have been killed since the coup — double the number from a year ago.

AAPP records show 17,572 people have been arrested, with 13,763 still in detention.

The UN estimates some 1.5 million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting.

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