Myanmar military stages coup, detains leader

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s military seized power in a bloodless coup yesterday, detaining democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi as it imposed a one-year state of emergency.

The intervention ended a decade of civilian rule in Myanmar, with the military justifying its power grab by alleging fraud in the November elections that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide.

The coup sparked global condemnation, with the United States (US) leading calls for democracy to be immediately restored. Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained in the capital Naypyidaw before dawn, party spokesman Myo Nyunt told AFP, just hours beforePparliament was meant to reconvene for the first time since the elections.

The military sealed off roads around the capital with armed troops, trucks and armoured personnel carriers. Military helicopters flew across the city.

The military then declared, via its own television channel, a one-year state of emergency and announced that former general Myint Swe would be acting president for the next year.

Soldiers stand guard on a blockaded road to Myanmar’s Parliament in Naypyidaw after the military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s president in a coup. PHOTO: AFP

It alleged “huge irregularities” in the November polls that the election commission had failed to address.

“As the situation must be resolved according to the law, a state of emergency is declared,” the announcement said.

The army later pledged to hold fresh elections after the year-long state of emergency. “We will perform real multi-party democracy… with complete balance and fairness,” a statement on the army’s official Facebook page said.

Suu Kyi issued a pre-emptive statement ahead of her detention calling on people “not to accept a coup”, according to a post on the official Facebook page of the party’s chairperson. By evening, the military announced that pandemic prevention measures will be “effectively carried out with momentum” – a hint that it would bolster the Covid-19 restrictions that currently blanket parts of the country.

The military moved quickly to stifle dissent, severely restricting the Internet and mobile phone communications across the country.

In Yangon, troops seized the city hall just ahead of the announcement, according to an AFP journalist.

AFP saw several trucks in Yangon carrying army supporters, with Myanmar flags and blaring nationalist songs, and some NLD members reported that security forces had ordered them to stay at home.

Elsewhere, the chief minister of Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held, party sources told AFP.

However, the military did not deploy masses of troops onto Yangon’s streets.

Washington was swift to react to the news.

“The United States (US) 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,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.