Naypyitaw, February 1
Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party is urging Myanmar’s people to oppose Monday’s “coup” and any return to “military dictatorship”.
The National League for Democracy released a statement on the Facebook page of its party head, Suu Kyi, saying the military’s actions were unjustified and went against the constitution and the will of voters.
It was not possible to confirm who posted the message as NLD members were not answering phone calls.
Myanmar military television said on Monday that the military was taking control of the country for one year while reports said many of the country’s senior politicians, including Suu Kyi, had been detained.
A presenter on military-owned Myawaddy TV announced the takeover and cited a section of the military-drafted constitution that allows the military to take control in times of national emergency.
He said the reason for takeover was in part due to the government’s failure to act on the military’s claims of voter fraud in last November’s election and its failure to postpone the election because of the coronavirus crisis.
The announcement and the declaration of a state of emergency follows days of concern about the threat of a military coup — and military denials that it would stage one — and came on the morning the country’s new Parliament session was to begin.
The takeover is a sharp reversal of the partial yet significant progress toward democracy Myanmar made in recent years following five decades of military rule and international isolation that began in 1962.
It would also be shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, who led the democracy struggle despite years under house arrest and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.
The military’s actions were already receiving widespread international condemnation.
New US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a statement expressing “grave concern and alarm” over the reported detentions.
“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections,” he wrote, using Myanmar’s former name.
“The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development,” Blinken added.
The office of the UN Secretary-General was also among those to issue a statement condemning the developments as a “serious blow to democratic reforms.”
The detention of the politicians and cuts in television signals and communication services on Monday were the first signs that plans to seize power were in motion.
Phone and internet access to Naypyitaw was lost and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party could not be reached.
Phone service in other parts of the country was also reported down, though people were still able to use the internet in many areas.
The Irrawaddy, an established online news service, reported that Suu Kyi, who as state counsellor is the nation’s top leader, and the country’s President Win Myint, were both detained in the pre-dawn hours. The news service cited Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for the NLD.
Its report said that the party’s Central Executive Committee members, lawmakers and regional Cabinet members had also been taken into custody.
A list of other people believed to have been detained, compiled by political activists who asked not to be named for security reasons, included filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, writer Maung Thar Cho, and prominent veterans of the country’s 1988 student protest movement, such as Ko Ko Gyi and Min Ko Naing.
Their detention could not immediately be confirmed.
The military TV report said Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing would be in charge of the country while Vice President Myint Swe would be elevated to Acting President.
Myint Swe is a former general best known for leading a brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks in 2007. He is a close ally of former junta leader Than Shwe.
As word of the military’s actions spread in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, there was a growing sense of unease among residents who earlier in the day had still been packed into cafes for breakfast and had been doing their morning shopping.
People were removing the bright red flags of Suu Kyi’s party that once adorned their homes and businesses. Lines formed at ATMs as people waited to take out cash, efforts that were being complicated by internet disruptions. Workers at some businesses decided to go home.
Monday’s parliamentary session was to be the first since last year’s election, as tension lingered over recent comments by the military that were widely seen as threatening a coup. AP