Myanmar: Military coup undermines the will of the people and raises the spectre of the country’s authoritarian past

PEN International is extremely alarmed by reports of a coup being carried out by Myanmar’s military. On 1 February, the Myanmar Army declared a state of emergency after carrying out waves of arrests of government officials and political figures, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military coup has taken place following allegations by the military of voter fraud during the country’s general elections in November 2020, which led to a robust rejection of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party by Myanmar’s citizens at the polling booth. On Friday, 29 January, Myanmar’s election commission flatly rejected the military’s claims of voter fraud.

In response to the military's repression of Myanmar's nascent democracy, Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee said: "Myanmar has turned the clock back three decades. Then, it was the army against the people's will. Now, too, it is the army against the people's will. This is not a fight between the institution of the army and a political party alone; it is the army turning against it's constitutional role. Suppressing the voices of writers and dissidents takes Myanmar deeper into an abyss. The international community must do all it can to help restore human rights in Myanmar".

PEN International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained and for the reinstatement of Myanmar's democratically elected government. Myanmar’s military must abide by and respect the primacy of the country’s constitution, which prohibits the declaration of a state of emergency without the consent of Myanmar’s President. It is understood that the military has declared a state of emergency unilaterally without the President’s consent, severely undermining the will of the people of Myanmar and signalling a return to a dark chapter in the country’s history.

For further information please contact Ross Holder, Asia Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: ross.holder@pen-international.org