Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, President Win Myint and other senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been detained by the military in the capital, Nay Pyi Daw, on February 1.
The military who has seized power from the elected government declared a state of emergency for one year following days of escalating tension over the result of November’s parliamentary elections.
As per reports, a video broadcast on military-owned television alleged“huge irregularities” in November’s election, following which they have declared an emergency.
After the detention of the Nobel Laurate Suu Kyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services Min Aung Hlaing is now in power of Myanmar for the duration of the state of emergency while Vice President Myint Swe will now serve temporarily as the President.
Reportedly, TV channels, phone lines and internet services have been cut off in the nation following the coup staged by the country’s military on Monday morning. Banks have temporarily halted all financial services and soldiers are on the streets of the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and the main city, Yangon.
As reported by BBC, the military says it found millions of irregularities in parliamentary elections lost by the army-back opposition in November. The election commission however, has rejected the fraud claims. But the army had threatened to “take action” and now says it will use its emergency powers to organise a new vote.
The NLD, in a statement that carried Aung San Suu Kyi’s name, called on Myanmar’s public not to accept the military coup. “The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship,” the statement said. “I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”
It needs to be mentioned here that the developments came as Parliament – in which the military is given 25 percent of the seats – was set to open in Myanmar.
Who was Aung San Suu Kyi?
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was ruled by the military for almost five decades until democratic reforms began in 2011. Since gaining independence from Britain in 1948, Myanmar has seen two previous coups — in 1962 and 1988.
Aung San Suu Kyi played a key role in the 1988 protests against the military junta, spending nearly a total of 15 years under house arrest in the period from 1989 to 2010.
Daughter of General Aung San, who fought for independence from British colonial rule, Suu Kyi was once seen as a human rights champion on the international stage. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, with the jury hailing her as “an outstanding example of the power of powerless.” However, her reputation has been overshadowed after she failed to stop the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from western Rakhine state in 2017. She was stripped of numerous titles that she won as a democracy campaigner. Despite this, Suu Kyi remained highly popular in Myanmar.
Reactions around the globe
Alarmed by the situation that has unfolded in Myanmar, world leaders has condemned the move of the armed forces.
A spokeswoman for US President Joe Biden said Washington was “alarmed” by reports of the Myanmar military’s “steps to undermine the country’s democratic transition” as well as the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders.
“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,” Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, “strongly condemned” the detention of Myanmar’s civilian leaders on the eve of the opening session of the country’s new parliament.
He also expressed “his grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military,” and added: “These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar.”
India’s foreign ministry said it “noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern”.
“India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely,” as said my the Ministry of External Affairs.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and the “impriosnement of civilians” in post on Twitter.
“The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.”
Bangladesh called for peace and stability in Myanmar and said it hoped to continue the process of voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees with its neighbour.
“We have been persistent in developing mutually beneficial relations with Myanmar and have been working with Myanmar for the voluntary, safe and sustained repatriation of the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Reuters news agency in a statement.
“We expect these processes to continue in right earnest.”
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed deep concern “at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar and has detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint”.
“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.”