On Monday, the military-owned Myawaddy TV announced that Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief, would be in charge of the country for one year and said that the takeover was required government did not act on the military’s claims of fraud in November’s elections.
The seizure came the morning the country’s new parliamentary session began. The military claims that its actions are legally justified by citing a section of the constitution that allows the army to take control in times of national emergency. On the other hand, Suu Kyi’s party spokesman and many international observers say that it amounts to a coup.
The early signs that the military was planning to takeover were announcements that Suu Kyi and Win Myint, the country’s president, had been detained before dawn. The spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, Myo Nyunt, told The Irrawaddy, an online news portal, that along with Suu Kyi and the president, Central Executive Committee members of the party, many of its lawmakers and other senior leaders are also taken into custody. According to the UN high commissioner for human rights, other than politicians, the people detained included human rights defenders, journalists and activists.
Television signals, phone services and internet access were cut across the country, including Naypyitaw, the capital. Passenger flights were also grounded. In other parts of the country phone services were also down, though people could still access the internet in some places.
As the news of the military’s actions spread in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, there was a growing uneasiness among residents. By noon, people removed Suu Kyi’s party’s bright red flags from their homes and businesses. Large queues formed at ATMs as people waited to withdraw cash, which was delayed by internet disruptions. Workers at many companies went home.
The military TV also reported that Myint Swe, the vice president, would be the acting president. Myint Swe was an ex-general infamous for leading a ferocious crackdown on Buddhist monks in 2007. He is also the close ally of Than Shwe, who ruled Myanmar for nearly two decades. In another report, the military announced that an election would be held in a year, and whoever wins the military would hand power to them.
On Facebook, Suu Kyi’s party released a statement urging people to oppose Monday’s “coup” and any return to “military dictatorship.” It also added that the military’s actions were unjustified and went against the constitution and voters’ will. There was no way to confirm who posted the message.
Military actions have received condemnation from the international community, and many countries demanded the release of the leaders from custody. Anthony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, expressed grave concern and alarm over the reported detentions. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the developments a “serious blow to democratic reforms,” according to his spokesman. The Security Council will also hold an emergency meeting on the military’s actions. Britain, which currently has the council presidency, said it would probably take place Tuesday.