Myanmar’s military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids.
The army said it had carried out the detentions in response to “election fraud”, handing power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for one year, according to a statement on a military-owned television station.
A verified Facebook page for Suu Kyi’s party published comments it said had been written in anticipation of a coup and which quoted her as saying people should protest against the military takeover.
The coup derails years of Western-backed efforts to establish democracy in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where neighbouring China also has a powerful influence.
The generals made their move hours before parliament had been due to sit for the first time since the NLD’s landslide win in a Nov. 8 election viewed as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s fledgling democratic rule.
Phone and internet connections in the capital Naypyitaw and the main commercial centre of Yangon were disrupted and state TV went off air after the NLD leaders were detained.
Suu Kyi, Myanmar President Win Myint and other NLD leaders were “taken” in the early hours of the morning, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone. Reuters was subsequently unable to contact him.
A video posted to Facebook by one MP appeared to show the arrest of another, regional lawmaker Pa Pa Han.
In the video, her husband pleads with men in military garb standing outside the gate. A young child can be seen clinging to his chest and wailing.
Troops took up positions in Yangon where residents rushed to markets to stock up on supplies and others lined up at ATMs to withdraw cash. Banks subsequently suspended services due to poor internet connections.
The detentions came after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the military in the aftermath of the election.
Suu Kyi’s party won 83% of the vote in only the second election since a military junta agreed to share power in 2011.
The pre-written statement uploaded on a NLD Facebook page quoted Suu Kyi as saying such army actions would put Myanmar “back under a dictatorship”.
“I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military,” it quoted her as saying. Reuters was unable to reach any NLD officials to confirm the veracity of the statement.
Some pro-military supporters celebrated the coup, parading through Yangon in pickup trucks and waving national flags but pro-democracy activists were horrified.
“Our country was a bird that was just learning to fly. Now the army broke our wings,” student activist Si Thu Tun said.
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