- The Myanmar’s military announced that it had taken over the country for one year
- After weeks of growing tensions with the government, intervention came
- Developments have caused a quick response from the United States, Australia
On Monday, Myanmar’s military launched a coup, detaining de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and announcing that under a state of emergency it had taken control of the country for one year.
The intervention came after weeks of growing tensions between the military, which had dominated the country for almost five decades, and the civil government over allegations of November election fraud.
Last week, the military signalled that it could seize power to resolve its allegations of fraud in the polls that was easily won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Before dawn on Monday, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Agence France-Presse (AFP), Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained in the capital Naypyidaw just hours before parliament was supposed to resume for the first time since the elections.
National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesman Myo Nyunt said, “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.”
The military then declared a one-year state of emergency through its own television channel.
According to an AFP journalist, in Yangon, troops seized the town hall of the former capital that remains the commercial hub of Myanmar.
Elsewhere, according to party sources, the chief minister of the Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held on the very day the new parliament was due to hold its first session.
A quick response from the United States and Australia was sparked by the developments, both calling for the release of detained NLD leaders and restoring democracy.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, “The United States condemns any effort to change the results of recent elections or obstruct the democratic transition of Myanmar and will take action against those responsible if these actions are not reversed.”
Australia said that the military was trying “once again seeking to seize control” of the country.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said, “We call on the military to uphold the rule of law, settle conflicts by constitutional channels, and immediately release all civilian leaders and others who have been illegally detained.”
Communication networks were limited in Myanmar in the hours after the arrests, with many cell phones networks down.
Significant disruptions to network connectivity were reported by NetBlocks, a non-governmental organization tracking internet shutdowns.
Phone numbers were also apparently inaccessible in the capital, Naypyidaw.
Myanmar’s November polls were only the country’s second democratic election since emerging from the 49-year hold of military rule in 2011.
The NLD swept the polls and was expecting a new five-year term to renew the 75-year-old Suu Kyi’s lease on power.
But the military has protested for weeks that the elections were fraught with irregularities, claiming to have discovered more than 10 million cases of voter fraud.
It requested the government-run election commission to issue electoral lists for cross-checking—which was not done by the commission.
Last week, military chief General Min Aung Hlaing — probably the most influential person in the world — said the 2008 constitution of the country could under some circumstances be “revoked”
The remarks of Min Aung Hlaing, which came with reports of a coup that had already been widespread, increased more tensions within the country and drew an alert from more than a dozen international embassies and the UN.
Since independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar has seen two previous coups, one in 1962 and one in 1988.
Suu Kyi, a former icon of democracy and Nobel Peace Prize winner whose reputation has been shattered internationally over her handling of the Muslim Rohingya crisis, remains a profoundly influential figure. Before she was released by the military in 2010, she spent 20 years off and on house arrest for her role as an opposition leader.