Military arrests Myanmar’s de facto leader Suu Kyi

Military arrests Myanmar's de facto leader Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s military has detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the president, and other MPs in a coup.

Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were arrested early Monday, just hours before a new government which was elected in a vote held last year was due to be sworn in.

Military leaders have declared a year-long state of emergency and appointed Vice President Myint Swe – a former general – as acting president.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had humiliated the military-backed USDP party in the vote, winning by a wider margin than it did during the 2015 election.

The NLD released a statement they said had been written by Suu Kyi before her arrest, which said: ‘The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship, according to Dailymail.

‘I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.’

The United States, Britain, Japan and Australia were among nations condemning the coup early Monday, while China – which backs the military – urged all sides to ‘resolve their differences… to protect political and social stability’.

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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 counsellor 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 and called upon the 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.

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.