The Myanmar military staged a coup on Monday in which de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and declared that it had taken control of the country for a year in a state of emergency.
The intervention came after weeks of tension between the military, who ruled the country for nearly five decades, and the civilian government over allegations of fraud in the November elections.
The military signaled last week that it could take power to resolve its claims of irregularities in the polls, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party easily won.
Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were arrested in the capital Naypyidaw on Monday before dawn, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told AFP just hours before parliament was due to resume for the first time since the elections.
“We heard that they were taken by the military … Given the situation we are now seeing, we have to assume that the military is staging a coup,” he said.
The military then declared a year-long state of emergency on its own television channel.
In Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar’s commercial center, troops captured the city hall, according to an AFP journalist.
Elsewhere, according to party sources, the prime minister of Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held on the day the new parliament was due to hold its first session.
The developments sparked a swift response from the United States and Australia. Both called for the detained NLD leaders to be released and for democracy to be restored.
“The United States rejects any attempt to change the outcome of the recent elections or impede the democratic transition in Myanmar and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” said Jen Psaki, White House spokeswoman. in a statement.
Australia said the military had “tried again to take control of the country”.
“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and promptly release all civil law leaders and others who have been illegally detained,” said Australian Foreign Secretary Marise Payne.
In the hours following the arrests, Myanmar’s communications networks were restricted and several cellular networks were down.
NetBlocks, a nongovernmental organization tracking Internet shutdowns, reported serious web connectivity problems.
Telephone numbers in the capital, Naypyidaw, also seemed unavailable.
Myanmar’s November polls were only the second democratic election the country had seen since its 49 years of military rule in 2011.
The NLD took part in the polls and expected to renew 75-year-old Suu Kyi’s power contract for a new term of five years.
But the military has been complaining for weeks that the polls were fraught with irregularities, claiming to have uncovered over 10 million cases of election fraud.
She has demanded that the government-run electoral commission release voter lists for cross-checking – which the commission has not done.
Last week, military chief Min Aung Hlaing – arguably the most powerful person in the country – said the country’s 2008 constitution could be “revoked” under certain circumstances.
Min Aung Hlaing’s statements, along with rumors of an already widespread coup d’état, fueled further tension in the country and warned more than a dozen foreign embassies and the United Nations.
Myanmar has seen two previous coups since its independence from Britain in 1948, one in 1962 and one in 1988.
Suu Kyi – a former icon of democracy and Nobel Peace Prize laureate whose image has been shaken internationally in the face of the Muslim Rohingya crisis – remains an extremely popular figure.
She spent 20 years under occasional house arrest for her role as opposition leader before being released by the military in 2010.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)