A soldier stands guard at a checkpoint next to a military propaganda billboard in Mandalay, Myanmar, Feb. 3, 2021.
A soldier stands guard at a checkpoint next to a military propaganda billboard in Mandalay, Myanmar, Feb. 3, 2021.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The Inter-Parliamentary Union has strongly condemned the military coup in Myanmar, calling it a major setback for democracy and a subversion of the will of the people. IPU membership includes parliamentary bodies from 179 of the world’s 193 countries.

The military coup took place on Monday, the day Myanmar’s new 664- member parliament was due to reopen. Military authorities questioned the legitimacy of November’s parliamentary election and have detained the country’s leader, Aung San Su Kyi and members of parliament.

Secretary-General of the Inter-parliamentary Union Martin Chungong said he is worried about the fate of members of parliament and the IPU has called on the military to respect their integrity.

He said the IPU has invested a lot in Myanmar since 2009. He said it has been engaging with military authorities and helping them along the democratic path.

He said Myanmar joined the IPU in 2012. Since then, the IPU has worked with parliament to help it function as a normal democratic body.

“As I speak, we do have a team of experts that were working with the Parliament in order to strengthen different components of that Parliament. Now, their work is in jeopardy. Everything has come unraveled. And I think that the international community should rally together to say and prove that what happened in Myanmar cannot be condoned,” he said.

Myanmar residing in Japan protest at a rally against Myanmar's military, after it seized power from a democratically elected civilian government and arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, outside Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, Feb. 3, 2021.

Chungong urges the rapid restoration of constitutional rule. He said parliament has stopped functioning since the military takeover. He said this has disrupted some important initiatives in which the IPU has been engaged with the MPs. One of particular interest, he said, was an effort begun last year to try to resolve the Rohingya issue.

“We had been set to continue this work with the newly elected Parliament when this coup happened. And that is why we say it is a big setback for all of us because we thought we have been making progress along those lines too at a time when the authorities as such were not very comfortable talking about the Rohingya issue,” said Chungong.

More than a million Rohingya have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar since August 2017. They live in overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Chungong said the IPU has not been able to establish contact with parliamentarians in Myanmar. He said his organization is monitoring the situation closely to see how it evolves.

He notes the IPU’s governing council is set to meet in regular session next Monday. He said the policy-making body may decide to suspend Myanmar from IPU membership if conditions in the country have not improved.