General Min Aung Hlaing (left) speaks as he takes control of the entire government under a clause in the constitution which the military drew up, saying that generals can seize power if security is under threat
Myanmar MP Pa Pa Han (left) was live-streamed on Facebook by her husband as the military turned up to arrest her on Monday (right), threatening to use ‘any means’ to detain her if she resisted
Myanmar – a former British colony known as Burma – gained independence in 1948, initially as a democracy though with heavy influence from the military which had been instrumental in the fight for self-governance.
But amid rampant infighting, corruption and ethnic persecution, the government lost control and in 1962 the military was invited to form a unity government under a socialist one-party system.
The military junta then ruled Myanmar for the next five decades, until partial elections held in 2010 ushered in a new age of civilian rule from 2011.
Full elections held in 2015 handed power to Suu Kyi’s party, though with a guaranteed share of power for the military.
Elections held last year handed yet-more power to Suu Kyi’s party, and – amid fears of constitutional reforms which would strip the military of much of its influence – generals alleged voter fraud and threatened to step in.
With the new government due to be sworn in on Monday, the coup took place in the early hours.
A year-long state of emergency has been declared, power transferred to military leaders, and all banks closed until further notice.
Myo Nyunt, the spokesman for the NLD, said Suu Kyi, a state counselor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, along with President Win Myint, had been ‘detained’ in the capital Naypyidaw.
‘We heard they were taken by the military,’ he told AFP, adding that he was extremely worried about the pair. With the situation we see happening now, we have to assume that the military is staging a coup.’
The White House said President Biden had been briefed about the situation andÂ called upon theÂ Myanmar military to release the 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,’ the White House said in a statement.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: ‘The democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened.’
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ‘strongly’ condemned the military’s detention of Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders.
‘These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar,’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Â ‘We request the release of stakeholders including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi who was detained today,’ Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement urging ‘the national army to quickly restore the democratic political system in Myanmar.’
‘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,’ Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne added.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed ‘grave concern about the latest situation in Myanmar,’ adding hopes that all parties would ‘exercise restraint.’
Indonesia’s foreign minister likewise expressed ‘concern’ while also urging ‘self-restraint.’
But Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the situation is an ‘internal matter.’
‘Our primary concern is the safety of our people, he said. ‘Our armed forces are on standby in case we need to airlift them as well as navy ships to repatriate them if necessary.’
A military spokesman did not answer phone calls seeking comment.
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.
Elsewhere, the chief minister of Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held, according to party sources, on the very day when the new parliament was to hold its first session.
Myo Nyunt said it was not clear what would happen to the newly elected MPs.