Myanmar’s military has handed power of the country to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, following the arrests of the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior leaders in early morning raids Monday.
In an address on military-owned television Myawaddy TV, Myanmar’s military said that it had detained key political leaders in response to election fraud and had declared a state of emergency, Reuters reported.
Power has been handed to army chief Min Aung Hlaing, according to Reuters. CNN is unable to confirm Reuters reporting due to widespread internet and telecommunication disruption in Myanmar.
The announcement follows several days of worsening political tensions and rising fears of a military coup and comes hours before a new session of parliament was scheduled to begin.
The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesperson Myo Nyunt confirmed the detentions to CNN Monday. “State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and some other senior figures are being detained in (the capital city of) Naypyidaw,” Myo Nyunt said. “The military seems to take control of the capital now.”
Several senior leaders from large states in Myanmar, including the ministers of Shan State, Kayah State, and the NLD Ayeyarwady state spokesperson, were also detained in the raids, Myo Nyunt said.
On Monday morning, Myanmar’s main news channels were suspended from the air and there were reports of significant internet disruption in the county. Soldiers could also be seen outside city hall in the country’s commercial center Yangon.
Last week, a military spokesperson said it would not rule out a coup if the military’s claims of alleged voter fraud into the November 2020 election were not investigated.
It claims that there are more than 10.5 million cases of “potential fraud, such as non-existent voters” and called on the election commission to publicly release the final polling data.
Suu Kyi’s party the NLD claimed an overwhelming victory in the country’s second democratic ballot since the end of direct military rule in 2011, taking 83% of the vote, which allowed the party to form a government. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won 33 out of a possible 476 seats, fewer than the party expected.
Myanmar’s election commission on Thursday rejected claims of voter fraud, saying any errors — such as duplicated names on voter lists — were not enough to impact the result of the vote.
On Friday, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “great concern” with the recent developments in Myanmar and urged “all actors to … adhere to democratic norms and respecting the outcome of the 8 November general election.”
A joint statement from 16 international missions in the country, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union also opposed any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or “impede Myanmar’s democratic transition.”
On Monday Human rights non-government organization Burma Rights UK said in a post to their Twitter that the news of Suu Kyi’s detention was “devastating.”
“This needs to be met with the strongest international response. The military need to be made to understand that they have made a major miscalculation in thinking they can get away with this,” the group said.
Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is widely considered a hero of democracy in Myanmar, for being both a former political prisoner who spent 15 years under house arrest and the daughter of assassinated independence icon, Aung San.
Since her party won a landslide victory in 2015 and established the first civilian government after 50 years of isolation and military authoritarianism, she has been Myanmar’s de facto leader and held the position of state counsellor — a title invented as a loophole to the constitution barring her from becoming president.
But her international reputation has been tarnished in recent years by allegations of genocide against the Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya population. Myanmar denies the charges and has long claimed to have been targeting terrorists.