Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other ruling party officials were detained Monday in a move that raised concerns of a possible coup in the country.
The early-morning detentions came on the same day that the new parliament was supposed to be inaugurated. Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were taken early Monday, said the spokesman for the ruling party, the National League for Democracy.
“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” spokesman Myo Nyunt said Monday, adding that he expected to be detained as well.
“As far as we know, all the important people have been arrested by the Burmese military,” he said.
“So, now we can say it is coup d’état. In Naypyidaw, Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint have been arrested, I heard. But we are not sure about members of Parliament in the municipality compound, but we can assume that they have been arrested, too.”
The White House weighed in quickly, with a statement saying, “The United States is alarmed by reports that the Burmese military has taken steps to undermine the country’s democratic transition,” adding that the U.S. urges “the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law, and to release those detained today.”
“The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” the statement continued.
Phone and internet service in major cities in the country have been disrupted, according to multiple reports. MRTV, the state broadcaster, was off the air, reporting on Facebook that it was having technical issues. Soldiers were in the streets of both the capital, Naypyidaw, and the largest city, Yangon, according to multiple reports.
The news of the arrests comes after months of tensions after the NLD’s landslide victory in November elections. Myanmar’s military claimed there had been voter fraud, an allegation rejected by the country’s election commission.
On Saturday, the Tatmadaw, the official name of Myanmar’s military, released a statement claiming that voter fraud had taken place and the international community “should not be endorsing the next steps of the political process on a ‘business as usual’ basis.
“The Tatmadaw is the one pressing for adherence to democratic norms,” the statement read. “It is not the outcome itself of the election that the Tatmadaw is objecting to. …Rather, the Tatmadaw finds the process of the 2020 election unacceptable, with over 10.5 million cases of potential fraud, such as non-existent votes.”
In the past week, Myanmar’s military had dismissed rumours it would launch a coup after the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, told senior officers that the constitution, which outlaws coup attempts, could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced.
Over the past week, the military has deployed an unusually high number of tanks around the capital city, raising alarm among civilians and government officials. Myanmar’s newly elected Parliament was expected to convene for its first session in Naypyidaw on Monday 1st February.
The arrest of Myanmar’s leaders, formerly known as Burma, is just the latest events in a country that has struggled between civilian and military rule and raises concerns that the nation’s transition to a democracy has stalled.
In 2010, Senior General Than Shwe announced the country would be handed over to civilian leaders, who included retired generals. They freed political prisoners, including the lawmakers from the National League for Democracy, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected in 2012 by-election and later became the state counsellor of Myanmar.
But Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, while popular among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, has seen her international reputation decline over her government’s treatment of the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
photo credits Republika