Myanmar’s army has taken control of the country over what they perceive to be a fraudulent 2020 vote, which resulted in a landslide victory for the ruling party led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Myanmar's military has announced it will hold a new election at the end of a one-year state of emergency it declared after staging a bloodless coup, seizing control of the country and arresting leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The announcement on military-controlled Myawaddy TV came on Monday after an earlier declaration that all government functions would be transferred to military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing under a provision in the 2008 constitution that was issued under military rule.
The announcement said once the election is held, the military would hand power to the winner.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in last November’s general election, humiliating the military-backed opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The military, known as the Tatmadaw, said it acted because Suu Kyi’s government failed to address its allegations of widespread voter fraud and other election-related issues.
Lawmakers say under guard
Security forces in Myanmar's capital are guarding the residences of members of parliament, two lawmakers said on Monday.
Military trucks have blocked exits of the compound that contains the municipal housing where legislators live during house sessions, representative Sai Lynn Myat said.
Those inside were in good health but were not allowed to leave, he added.
After carrying out a coup, Myanmar's army says it will hold fresh elections and hand power to the winning party once year-long state of emergency ends pic.twitter.com/snpv5WmYk5— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) February 1, 2021
Myanmar's government agency in charge of air travel says it has stopped all passenger flights in the country.
The US Embassy in Myanmar said on its Facebook page that the road to the international airport in Yangon, the country’s s biggest city, had been closed Monday.
On Twitter it said that “reports indicate that all airports in Myanmar are closed.”
The US Embassy also issued a “security alert” saying it was aware of the detention of Suu Kyi as well as the shutdown of some Internet service, including in Yangon.
“There is potential for civil and political unrest in Burma, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” it said, using Myanmar's former name.
The US State Department earlier issued a statement say it was “alarmed” by Monday's military takeover.
Reports indicate that all airports in Myanmar are closed. We will seek more information and provide updates as they become available.— American Citizen Services - Burma (Myanmar) (@ACSRangoon) February 1, 2021
The detention of politicians and communications blackout on Monday were the first signals that plans to seize power were in motion.
Phone and internet access to Naypyidaw was lost and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party could not be reached.
The Irrawaddy, an established 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.
The news service cited Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for the NLD.
Its report said that the party’s Central Executive Committee members, lawmakers and regional Cabinet members had also been taken into custody.
All Myanmar banks nationwide were also closed.
"All member banks of Myanmar Banks Association are to close their bank unanimously starting from February 1," according to an announcement by the association, which said it was due to a poor internet connection.
Suu Kyi issued a preemptive call for people to reject any coup, before she was arrested by the military, according to her party.
Suu Kyi called on people "not to accept a coup", according to a post on the official Facebook page of the chair of the National League for Democracy.
A senior leader of Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD) party said the decision by General Min Aung Hlaing to stage a coup at a time when Myanmar was struggling with the pandemic showed personal ambitions rather than concern for the country.
"The country's economy is going down. At this time, the fact that he conducted a coup shows that he doesn't think about the future," Win Htein said on a video posted on Facebook.
Myanmar's military has put the country under a state of emergency for a year.
Suu Kyi's message reiterated the National League for Democracy's landslide victory in the November 2020 election.
Coup in times of Covid
The Facebook post noted the military's actions could jeopardise the country's efforts to fight a coronavirus outbreak.
Myanmar's health minister said he was leaving his post because of the "evolving situation" in the country after the military seized power.
In a message on the health ministry's official Facebook page, Myint Htwe urged colleagues to continue to serve the population, especially with the coronavirus epidemic and vaccinations. He did not say whether his departure was voluntary or by force.
Myanmar has registered more than 140,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths.
The post said she had not accepted a controversial army-scripted 2008 constitution but had abided by it since entering parliament.
The constitution carved out a powerful ongoing political role for the military, giving them control of the key interior, border and defence ministries and a bloc of parliamentary seats.
Suu Kyi and her government had been trying to amend the charter since winning the 2015 election, with little success.
During the last term, she circumvented a constitutional clause that prevented her from assuming the presidency by taking the de facto leadership role of "state counsellor".
Myanmar lawmakers were to gather Monday in the capital for the first session of Parliament since last year’s election.
The 75-year-old Suu Kyi is by far the country’s most dominant politician and became the country’s leader after leading a decades-long nonviolent struggle against military rule.
Suu Kyi's party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of Parliament in the November polls, but the military holds 25 percent of the total seats under the 2008 military-drafted constitution and several key ministerial positions are also reserved for military appointees.
The military charged 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.
Amid the bickering over the allegations, the military last Tuesday ramped up political tension when a spokesman at its weekly news conference, responding to a reporter’s question, declined to rule out the possibility of a coup.
Major General Zaw Min Tun elaborated by saying the military would “follow the laws in accordance with the constitution.”
Using similar language, Hlaing told senior officers in a speech on Wednesday that the constitution could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced. Adding to the concern was the unusual deployment of armoured vehicles in the streets of several large cities.
On Saturday, however, the military denied it had threatened a coup, accusing unnamed organisations and media of misrepresenting its position and taking the general’s words out of context.
On Sunday, it reiterated its denial, this time blaming unspecified foreign embassies of misinterpreting the military’s position and calling on them “not to make unwarranted assumptions about the situation.”