On Tuesday, a day after the military staged a coup d’etat and arrested senior politicians including Nobel laureate and de facto chief Aung San Suu Kyi, hundreds of members of Myanmar’s Parliament stayed confined inside their government housing in the country’s capital.
Meanwhile, Suu Kyi’s National Democracy League group issued a statement calling on the military to uphold the outcome of last November’s election and to free all those arrested.
“The commander-in-chief seizing the power of the nation is against the constitution and it also neglects the sovereign power of people,” the group said in a statement on one of its Facebook accounts.
One of the lawmakers detained said he and about 400 other members of parliament were able to talk to each other within the compound and connect by phone with their constituents, but were not allowed to leave the Naypyitaw housing complex.
He said it wasn’t Suu Kyi being carried by them.
Police were inside the building and troops were outside it, the lawmaker said. He said the legislators, made up of Suu Kyi’s party members and other minor groups, spent a sleepless night worrying that they might be taken down, but were okay otherwise.
We had to remain awake and be vigilant,” the lawmaker told The Associated Press out of concern for his safety on condition of anonymity.”
The overthrow arrived in the morning when politicians from all over the world had assembled in the capital for the start of the new legislative session and days of fear followed that a coup was coming.
The military said the takeover was appropriate because in November’s elections in which Suu Kyi’s governing party won a majority of the parliamentary seats for grabs, the government had not acted on the military’s charges of bribery and because it allowed the election to go ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, an announcement read on military-owned Myawaddy TV said Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will be in charge of the nation for a year.
Late on Monday, the commander-in-office chief’s revealed the names of the new ministers in the government. The 11-member cabinet, led by retired General Thein Sein, is made up of military generals, former military generals and former government advisers.
For Myanmar, the coup is a stunning backslide that resulted from decades of rigid military rule and foreign isolation that started in 1962. It now poses a challenge for the international community which, when under military rule, had ostracised Myanmar and then enthusiastically welcomed the government of Suu Kyi as a symbol that the country was finally on the road to democracy.
US President Joe Biden has threatened fresh sanctions that the country has faced before.
The streets were quieter than normal on Tuesday in Yangon, the country’s largest city, but markets were open, street vendors were still cooking food and taxis and buses were still running.
There were no overt indications of intense security, but the discomfort that set in after the events of Monday was still lingering. People eliminated from their homes and businesses the once ubiquitous red flags of Suu Kyi’s faction.
The state of emergency was headlined by the English-language Myanmar Times, while other state-owned newspapers displayed front-page photos of Monday’s National Defense and Security Council meeting with other military officials attended by newly named Acting President Myint Swe and Min Aung Hlaing.
The military has insisted that its acts are constitutionally justified by invoking a provision of the constitution it drafted that requires it to take power in times of national emergency, while it amounts to a coup by Suu Kyi’s party spokesman and several foreign observers.
The takeover marks a stunning fall from power for Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who, after her party won elections in 2015, had lived under house arrest for years as she sought to drive her country into independence and become its de facto leader.
During her years of prison, Suu Kyi was a fierce opponent of the army. But after her transition from a symbol of independence to a politician, she needed to deal with the military, who had never completely given up authority after allowing elections.
While the 75-year-old remained famous at home, the deference of Suu Kyi to the generals, going so far as to justify their crackdown on Rohingya Muslims branded as genocide by the United States and others, has left her image tarnished abroad.
The coup was greeted with international criticism and the release of the arrested leaders was called for by several nations.
Biden called the actions of the military a direct attack on the return to democracy and the rule of law in the world and said Washington would not hesitate to restore penalties.
“The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack,” he said in a tweet.
According to his spokesman, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the developments a’ significant blow to democratic reforms.’
According to Britain, which currently occupies the council presidency, the Security Council will hold an emergency briefing on the military’s actions, possibly on Tuesday.