Myanmar’s military has taken power and declared a state of emergency after detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government officials in a series of early morning raids that followed days of escalating tension over the outcome of the November election in which the ruling party won by a landslide.
A video address broadcast on military-owned television said power had been handed to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the government is “deeply concerned” over the detention of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and called on the military to immediately release the pro-democracy figure and other senior figures from the ruling party.
Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders ruling party were taken away in an early morning raid, while soldiers were deployed outside City Hall in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon.
Payne called on the military to respect the rule of law and immediately release all civilian leaders.
“The Australian government is deeply concerned 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,” she said.
“Australia is a long-standing supporter of Myanmar and its democratic transition. 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.
“We strongly support the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, consistent with the results of the November 2020 general election.”
A witness contacted by telephone said that a dozen soldiers were in front of the building that houses the city administration in Yangon while several military trucks and vans stood nearby.
It appears increasingly likely to be a military coup came after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the powerful military in the aftermath of an election the army says was fraudulent.
Spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone that Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning.
“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said, adding that he expected to be arrested himself. Reuters was subsequently unable to contact him.
Phone lines to Naypyitaw, the capital, were not reachable in the early hours of Monday. Parliament had been due to start sitting there on Monday after a November election the NLD had won in a landslide.
Myanmar state media MRTV is having technical issues and is unable to broadcast, the network said on Monday, just hours after the senior government figures were detained.
“Due to current communication difficulties we’d like to respectfully inform you that the regular programmes of MRTV and Myanmar Radio cannot be broadcast,” Myanmar Radio and Television said on a post on its Facebook page.
An NLD lawmaker, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said another of those detained was Han Thar Myint, a member of the party’s central executive committee.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, 75, came to power after a 2015 landslide election win that followed decades of house arrest in a struggle for democracy that turned her into an international icon.
Her international standing was damaged after hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled army operations into refuge from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in 2017, but she remains hugely popular at home.
The NLD won a landslide in last November’s election, hammering a pro-military party.
Myanmar’s military had said on Saturday it would protect and abide by the constitution and act according to law after comments earlier in the week had raised fears of a coup.
Myanmar’s election commission has rejected the military’s allegations of vote fraud, saying there were no errors big enough to affect the credibility of the vote.
The constitution reserves 25 per cent of seats in parliament for the military and control of three key ministries in Suu Kyi’s administration.
“The US as recently as Friday had joined other nations in urging the military not to move forward on its coup threats. China will stand by Myanmar like it did when the military kicked out the Rohingya,” he said.
“The Biden administration has said it will support democracy and human rights. But the top military officers are already sanctioned so it’s not clear immediately clear what concretely the US can do quickly.”
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