Myanmar coup: Suu Kyi held as army takes over | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 02, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:14 AM, February 02, 2021

Myanmar coup: Suu Kyi held as army takes over

Military reasons polls irregularities, declares state of emergency, pledges power transfer after new polls; Biden leads world’s condemnation, orders sanctions review; UNSC to meet today

Myanmar's military seized power in a bloodless coup yesterday,  detaining democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and imposing a  one-year state of emergency -- moves that sparked global outrage and  calls for the generals to immediately backtrack. 

The army  intervention ended a decade of transition from outright military rule  in Myanmar, with the generals justifying the power grab by alleging  fraud in the November elections that Suu Kyi's National League for  Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide.

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US President Joe Biden  led the chorus of world condemnation, calling for a quick restoration of  democracy and warning that Washington could reimpose sanctions.

"The  international community should come together in one voice to press the  Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized,"  Biden said.

"The United States is taking note of those who stand with the people of Burma in this difficult hour."

Suu  Kyi and President Win Myint were detained in the capital Naypyidaw  before dawn, party spokesman Myo Nyunt told AFP, just hours before  parliament was meant to reconvene for the first time since the  elections.

Late yesterday, Myanmar state television announced the removal of 24 of Suu Kyi's ministers, and 11 new appointments.

Former  foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin, who served under ex-general Thein  Sein, will return to that role after five years -- taking over a job  that Suu Kyi had held while she was de facto national leader.

The  military sealed off roads around the capital with armed troops, trucks  and armoured personnel carriers. Military helicopters flew across the  city.

A putsch had been expected for days, yet when it came  it left Myanmar stunned -- with roads to its main international airport  blocked and communications cut -- a country once more isolated from a  world it only rejoined a decade ago.

"It's extremely  upsetting -- I don't want the coup," said a 64-year-old Burmese man in  Hlaing township, standing with a crowd outside a grocery stall.

The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting on the situation for today.

The  military declared, via its own television channel, a one-year state of  emergency and announced that former general Myint Swe would be acting  president for the next year.

It alleged "huge irregularities" in the November polls that the election commission had failed to address.

"As the situation must be resolved according to the law, a state of emergency is declared," the announcement said.

The army later pledged to hold fresh elections after one year.

Suu  Kyi had issued a pre-emptive statement ahead of her detention calling  on people "not to accept a coup", according to a post on the official  Facebook page of her party's chairperson.

The military  moved quickly to stifle dissent, severely restricting the internet and  mobile phone communications across the country.

In Yangon,  the former capital that remains Myanmar's commercial hub, troops seized  the city hall just ahead of the announcement, according to an AFP  journalist.

Several trucks were seen in Yangon carrying  army supporters, with Myanmar flags and blaring nationalist songs, and  some NLD members reported that security forces had ordered them to stay  at home.

People rushed to grocery stores to stock up on  rice, oil and instant noodles. Banks were temporarily closed by the  communications freeze, but some were expected to reopen today.

Elsewhere, the chief minister of Karen state and several other regional ministers were also held, party sources told AFP.

Myanmar's  November polls were only the second democratic elections the country  had seen since it emerged from the 49-year grip of military rule in  2011.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union, Britain and Australia were among others to condemn the coup.

China declined to criticise anyone, instead calling for all sides to "resolve differences".

The NLD won more than 80 percent of the vote in November -- increasing its support from 2015.

But  the military has for weeks complained the polls were riddled with  irregularities, and claimed to have uncovered more than 10 million  instances of voter fraud.

Myanmar has seen two previous coups since independence from Britain in 1948 -- in 1962 and 1988.

Suu  Kyi, 75, is an immensely popular figure in Myanmar for her opposition  to the military -- which earned her the Nobel Peace Prize -- having  spent the best part of two decades under house arrest during the  previous dictatorship.

But her international image was  shredded during her time in power as she defended the military-backed  crackdown in 2017 against the country's Rohingya community.

About  750,000 Rohingya were forced to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh  during the campaign, which UN investigators said amounted to genocide.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said it was "appalled" by her arrest.

Suu  Kyi was only ever de facto leader of Myanmar as the military had  inserted a clause in the constitution that barred her from being  president. But to circumvent that clause, she assumed leadership of the  country via a new role of "state counsellor".

The 2008  constitution also ensured the military would remain a significant force  in government by retaining control of the interior, border and defence  ministries.

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