QAnon Conspiracy Theorists Are Emboldened by the Coup in Myanmar

On Monday, the recently elected government in Myanmar was overthrown by the military. According to the Associated Press, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has taken power in the country for one year due to the military’s claims of the results of the November democratic election being fraudulent.

The country’s armed forces arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate whose party, the National League for Democracy, won a majority in the parliament in 2015, as a result of Myanmar’s first recognized free election in 25 years. Suu Kyi has spent years advocating for democracy in the country, and was placed under house arrest by the military in 1989. She is venerated by many in Myanmar, despite failing to stop military action against an ethnic minority, the Rohingya, in what is broadly considered a genocide.

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The coup is viewed by many in the international community as a major backwards step in terms of the progress Myanmar had made toward democracy. On Monday, in a statement on the Facebook page for the NLD, Suu Kyi encouraged her supporters to protest against the coup and to “resist it resoundingly.” President Joe Biden also released a statement calling the coup a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.”

But it was an emboldening development for many believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits the existence of a deep state child trafficking ring made up of Hollywood actors and left-wing politicians. Some prominent influencers within the QAnon community with thousands of followers have promoted the baseless idea that electronic voting companies Smartmatic and Dominion were involved in perpetuating voter fraud in Myanmar, and some have posited that a similar military coup could happen in the United States.

The totally baseless QAnon theory is contingent on Trump retaining power and arresting and eventually executing his enemies. Therefore, in the months following Biden’s election, QAnon believers have been rumbling about the results of the election being fraudulent. Many have been pushing the claim that Trump will return to office, possibly by force of a military coup. And they have been invigorated by watching this exact scenario taking place in the small southeast Asian country.

“The Burmese military has arrested the country’s leaders after credible evidence of widespread voter fraud became impossible to ignore…sounds like the controlled media and Biden admin are scared this might happen here,” one influencer with more than 45,000 subscribers on the encrypted messaging app Telegram wrote. “We will see this headline here soon,” another QAnon believer with more than 50,000 subscribers on Telegram wrote, linking to a tweet from a far-right news website about the arrest of Myanmar’s leaders.

One version of the theory promoted on a Telegram thread with more than 165,000 subscribers purports that Myanmar is a major site of human trafficking and that there are tenuous “links” between the country and QAnon favorites Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The implication of this theory is that “we are seeing the first signs of military takeover that is also planned for the U.S.,” says Amaranth Amarasingam, a professor in the school of religion at Queen’s University in Ontario.

In the months following Biden’s election, the QAnon community has fractured, with many scrambling to make sense of the outcome of the election in the context of the conspiracy theory. One theory based on an arcane interpretation of legal principles held by the sovereign citizen fringe group posits that Biden’s inauguration was a sham and that Trump will actually be sworn into office on March 4th. In this context, Amarasingam says, the Myanmar theory is another attempt to undermine the democratic process and to “find data points anywhere that may support or lend credence to their understanding of how things are supposed to pan out.”

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