Myanmar’s military has taken over the country for a year, according to reports on military TV in the country on Monday.
Associated Press is reporting the announcement came on Monday, just hour after reports that Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior figures from the ruling party had been detained in early morning raids amid threats of a military coup.
Early on Monday afternoon (Australian time), online news service Irrawaddy reported that Ms Suu Kyi and the country’s president, Win Myint, had both been arrested before dawn. It cited Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for Ms Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy party.
Irrawaddy said the party’s Central Executive Committee members, lawmakers and regional cabinet members had also been taken into custody.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns, Ming Yu Hah, described the arrests as “alarming” and an “ominous moment” for the people of Myanmar.
“The arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, senior officials and other political figures is extremely alarming. Unless those detained can be charged with a recognizable criminal offence under international law, they must be immediately released.
Amnesty called on the Myanmar military to clarify on what basis they were arrested, that the group be given access to lawyers and medical care, and have their rights respected.
“This is an ominous moment for people in Myanmar, and threatens a severe worsening of military repression and impunity,” Ms Ming Yu said.
The army also declared a state of emergency and handed power to the Commander in Chief of the Myanmar’s armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing.
Monday’s escalation followed days of tension between the civilian government and the powerful military that stirred fears the army was plotting a coup following the November 2020 election it claims was fraudulent.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the reports emerging from Myanmar as “disturbing”.
“We have been a long-standing supporter of Myanmar’s democratic transition, including the election in November,” he said in questions at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday.
“Clearly, there are very significant hurdles for them still to overcome and the tensions are still very present.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was also alarmed at the reports.
“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,” she said.
“We strongly support the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, consistent with the results of the November 2020 general election.”
The federal opposition has also condemned the Myanmar military’s actions.
“This is a direct attack on Myanmar’s ongoing democratic transition,” Labor senator Penny Wong said.
“We look to the Australian government to make clear our expectations that democratic norms are respected and strengthened.”
The US also spoke out against Monday’s developments.
“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 Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials in Burma,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
She said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the reported developments.
Earlier, there were reports of an increased military presence on the streets of the capital Naypyitaw and other major cities, and that the mobile phone network and the internet had stopped working.
On Sunday, Myanmar military officials denied their chief had threatened to stage a coup amid the complaints of election fraud, saying the media had misinterpreted his words.
Political tension soared last week after a spokesman for the military, which ruled Myanmar for five decades, said a coup could not be ruled out if its complaints of widespread fraud in November’s election were ignored.
General Min Aung Hlaing told senior officers in a speech Wednesday the constitution could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced.
Saturday’s statement from the military, known as the Tatmadaw, said “some organisations and media” wrote without foundation that the military threatened to revoke the constitution.
The statement said General Min Aung Hlaing’s speech was taken out of context and was actually an observation to senior officer trainees on the nature of the constitution.
The ruling National League for Democracy party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the November 8 election, allowing it to form a government led by Ms Suu Kyi for another five years.
The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won only 33 seats.