Citing ‘fraud in election’, the Myanmar military has declared a state of emergency and has taken control of the country. The military conducted morning raids on several politicians and detained civilian government leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government officials.
Tensions were mounting between the political leadership and the military since the November elections in which the ruling party won by a landslide. A video address broadcast on Myawaddy TV, a military-owned television, said power had been handed to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The TV report said that the military-drafted constitution allows the military to take control in times of national emergency.
The declaration of emergency and seizing power comes on a day when Myanmar lawmakers were to gather in the capital Naypyitaw for the first session of Parliament since last year’s election.
Defending the military’s action to stage a coup, the statement from the military accused the Union Election Commission of failing to address voter list irregularities and said it was forced to act because the government had rejected the military’s demands, including the postponement of the new Parliament, which was slated to convene its first session on Monday morning.
The Irrawaddy, an online news service, reported that Suu Kyi, who as state counsellor is the nation’s top leader, and the country’s president, Win Myint, were both detained in the pre-dawn hours. Communication services were first cut indicating a plan to seize power by the military. Phone and internet access was also cut in the capital Naypyitaw.
Myo Nyunt, the spokesman for the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) said earlier on Monday, that Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning. “I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said.
India has expressed that it believes that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. In a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, India said that it has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar.
“We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely”, the statement from the MEA said.
The US has reacted sharply to the developments and said that it 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. Jen Psaki, White House spokesperson, in a statement said that the United States is alarmed by reports that the Burmese military has taken steps to undermine the country’s democratic transition, including the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials in Burma.
“We continue to affirm our strong support for Burma’s democratic institutions and, in coordination with our regional partners, urge the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law, and to release those detained today. We are monitoring the situation closely and stand with the people of Burma, who have already endured so much in their quest for democracy and peace”, the US said.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne the Australian Government is deeply concerned at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar and has detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. “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”, it said.
Charles Santiago, the chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and a Malaysian MP in a statement said “The people of Myanmar had their say in November’s vote, and overwhelmingly sent the message that they reject army rule. The military must respect the will of the people and allow parliament to proceed.”
Allegations of Voting fraud
The ruling NLD headed by Suu Kyi won November’s elections by a landslide margin. The party won in 396 out of 476 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of Parliament in the November polls. As per the Myanmar constitution, the military holds 25% of the total seats under the 2008 military-drafted constitution and several key ministerial positions are also reserved for military appointees.
The massive victory for NLD put the military on the backfoot. Ever since the election results, the Military has alleged that there was massive voting fraud in the election, though it has failed to provide proof. The state Union Election Commission last week rejected its allegations. The Supreme Court is currently considering its claims, but the situation escalated last week when Min Aung Hlaing threatened to abolish the constitution but later seemed to back down and claimed that the media had taken the general’s comments out of context.
Myanmar, once a British colony, was led by the military for decades before it began a transition to democracy in 2008. Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of national independence leader Aung San, and spent years under house arrest during the military regime.