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(February 12, 2021) Who's culpable for Myanmar's coup?

When Myanmar's armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, staged a military coup on Feb 1, reactions inside the country and outside were noticeably different. As the coup effectively disenfranchised millions of voters who chose hitherto State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in a landslide victory on Nov 8, public anger inside the country was immediate and conspicuous just as Myanmar's newly elected parliament was about to convene. Many outside observers, however, were more guarded and hedged, portraying the cause of the coup as more qualified and nuanced. How the coup came about has become a bone of contention that will have much to say about the post-coup dynamics and outcomes.

It is easy to understand voters' fury that greeted the Tatmadaw's seizure of power, led by Command-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. After a decade of political liberalisation and gradual economic development following nearly five decades of military dictatorship and economic isolation, countless Myanmar citizens from the majority Bamar to sundry ethnic minorities around the country, all with rising expectations from reform and change in the past decade, had a stake in staying the course of democratisation and economic progress, despite flaws and shortcomings. They also voted overwhelmingly for the NLD exactly five years earlier at the expense of the Tatmadaw's electoral proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party.