Yangon: Myanmar’s military on Monday, seized control of the country in a coup as it detained the de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and declared one emergency.
The intervention came after weeks of brewing tensions between the military, which governed the country for nearly five decades, and a decade old civilian government over allegations of fraud in November’s elections.
The military coup follows a landslide election win by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), after which the military had signaled to seize power to settle its claims of irregularities in the polls.
In the early hours of Monday, the military detained Suu Kyi and President Win Myint in the capital Naypyidaw and announced to hand the power to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing because of “election fraud”. The coup reportedly happened just hours before parliament was meant to resume for the first time since the elections.
“We heard they were taken by the military… With the situation we see happening now, we have to assume that the military is staging a coup,” he said.
The military then declared a one-year state of emergency, on its own television channel.
Soldiers are on the streets of the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and the main city and Myanmar’s commercial hub, Yangon, where troops seized the city hall, as per reports.
Meanwhile, the chief minister of Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held.
The incident triggered a quick response from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, with all three nations calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy.
“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,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Conservatives leader, Boris Johnson called out for NLD leader detention, “I condemn the coup and unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in Myanmar. The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.”
Whereas, Australia said the military was “once again seeking to seize control” of the country.
“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.
Hours after the arrests, communication networks in the emergency stricken country were disrupted, with several mobile phone networks facing issues. Phone numbers in the capital Naypyidaw were also seemingly unreachable.
Myanmar’s election’s in November last year were only the second democratic polls the country had seen since it got rid of the 49-year grip of military rule in 2011.
As per reports, the 75-year-old Suu Kyi again formed the government for next five-year by winning the elections, however, the military for weeks had been complaining that the polls were riddled with irregularities, and claimed to have uncovered over 10 million instances of voter fraud.
The military had also demanded the government-run election commission to release voter lists for cross-checking, which the commission had not done.
Following which, military chief General Min Aung Hlaing, who is considered to be country’s most powerful individual, last week had warned that the country’s 2008 constitution could be “revoked” under certain circumstances. Hlaing’s remarks, topped with rumours of a coup, raised tensions further within the country and drew a warning from more than a dozen foreign embassies and the UN.
To note, Myanmar has in past too seen two coups since its independence from Britain in 1948; one in 1962 and second in 1988.
Aung San Suu Kyi who has now become an international figure and is known globally for her role as a former democracy icon and Nobel peace prize winner, got herself in controversies over her handling of the Muslim Rohingya crisis. Suu Kyi was released by military in 2010, after spending 20 years off and on under house arrest for her role as an opposition leader.