The Myanmar army takes energy and detains Reuters’ elected chief Aung San Suu Kyi
© Reuters. Myanmar State Advisor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi leaves after paying her respects to her late father during a ceremony marking the 73rd anniversary of Martyrs’ Day in Yangon
(Reuters) -Myanmar’s military took power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, which was arrested along with other leaders of their National League for Democracy (NLD) party during an early morning raid.
The army said it carried out the arrests in response to “election fraud,” handed power over to military chief Min Aung Hlaing, and declared a state of emergency for a year, according to a military television broadcaster. A military spokesman did not answer calls for further comments.
Telephone lines to the capital, Naypyitaw, and main business center of Yangon were inaccessible, and state television went off hours before the first seat of parliament since the NLD’s November election victory, viewed as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s young democratic government.
Soldiers took positions in Yangon City Hall and mobile internet data and phone services in the NLD stronghold were disrupted, local residents said. Internet connectivity had also dropped dramatically, according to NetBlocks.
Suu Kyi, Myanmar President Win Myint and other NLD leaders were “kidnapped” early in the morning, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone.
“I want to tell our people not to act rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said, adding that he expects to be arrested himself. Reuters was unable to contact him later.
The arrests came after days of escalating tensions between the civilian government and the military that sparked fears of a coup d’état following the elections.
The White House said President Joe Biden had been informed of Suu Kyi’s arrest.
“The United States rejects any attempt to change the outcome of the recent elections or obstruct democratic transition in Myanmar and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The Australian government said it was “deeply concerned about reports that the Myanmar military is trying again to take control of Myanmar” and called for the immediate release of the illegally detained leaders.
Japan said it is monitoring the situation and currently has no plans to repatriate Japanese nationals from Myanmar.
The 75-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi came to power after a 2015 election victory that followed decades of house arrest in the struggle for democracy with Myanmar’s junta and made her an international icon.
Their international reputation was damaged after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled army operations in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine in 2017. However, she is still very popular at home.
Political tensions rose last week when a military spokesman refused to rule out a coup before the new parliament is convened on Monday and military chief Min Aung Hlaing raised the prospect of the constitution being repealed.
But the military appeared to be pulling out over the weekend, making a statement on social media on Sunday that “would do anything to uphold the democratic norms of free and fair elections”.
Tanks were used in some streets last week and pro-military demonstrations took place in some cities ahead of the first assembly of parliament.
The Myanmar Electoral Commission has denied the military’s allegations of electoral fraud.
The constitution, published in 2008 after decades of military rule, reserves 25% of the seats in parliament for the military and control of three key ministries in the administration of Suu Kyi.
Daniel Russel, the leading US diplomat for East Asia under President Barack Obama who had close ties with Suu Kyi, said another military takeover in Myanmar would be a severe blow to democracy in the region.
“If that is true, it will be a major setback – not only for democracy in Myanmar, but also for US interests. This is another reminder that the continued lack of credible and consistent US involvement in the region is anti-democratic Forces, “he said.
Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said the situation was challenging for the new US administration.
“The US, along with other nations, only called on the military on Friday not to press ahead with its coup threats. China will stand by Myanmar as it did when the military kicked the Rohingya out,” he said.
John Sifton, advocacy director for Human Rights Watch in Asia, said Myanmar’s military had never submitted to civil rule and urged the United States and other countries to impose “severe and targeted economic sanctions” on the military leadership and its economic interests.