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Locsin says Myanmar military takeover a 'chess move, not a coup'

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr on Monday, February 1, said the Myanmar military’s takeover of its government was not a coup, as he likened it to a “chess move” after rising tensions over the result of recent elections. 

“Report from Myanmar indicates a chess move but not a coup on the party of the MDS (Myanmar Defense Services); the CIC (Commander in Chief) committed to respect the 2008 Constitution which respects military role,” Locsin tweeted on Monday, February 1. 

The Philippines’ foreign affairs chief earlier assessed the Myanmar military may have carried out its actions in the interest of protecting democracy in the country. “Let's hope it is for her (Aung San Suu Kyi) and her democratic project's protection; it's happened; the military can also close ranks for that,” he said.

Locsin’s statement departs from other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia and Singapore, which have denounced the move of Myanmar’s military to seize power and detain its civilian leader Suu Kyi, as well as other top officials of the ruling National League for Democracy party. 

In a separate briefing on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippines viewed the unfolding coup in Myanmar as an "internal matter" it will not interfere with.

What's happening in Myanmar?

In a statement from the NLD, Suu Kyi had called on the public not to accept a military coup and urged them to protest.

"The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship," the NLD said in a statement which carried leader Aung San Suu Kyi's name. "I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military."

Locsin likewise expressed doubt the military would harm Suu Kyi, citing her father’s  relationship with its military and his legacy as the founding father of modern-day Myanmar. 

“Her father was the father of Burma and the Army. So she is the sibling of the Army. They won’t dare hurt her,” he said. 

Locsin had touted Suu Kyi as “one of the few world icons of democracy.” 

The detention of Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders comes just days after Myanmar’s powerful military said it would protect and abide by its constitution as the United Nations and several countries expressed concerns over military intervention in the country. 

Myanmar’s military had earlier threatened to "take action" over alleged fraud in the country’s elections last November 2020, where Suu Kyi and her party won by a landslide.

The Philippine embassy in Myanmar urged Filipinos in the country to remain calm and stay home as the situation unfolds. In case of emergencies, the embassy told Filipinos to reach officials through its official Facebook page or hotline at 09250765938. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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