Update 1: Adds Suu Kyi’s, Win Myint’s arrest, quotes, background, changes headline.
Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 1 (efe-epa).- Myanmar’s army arrested several politicians Monday, including the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint after a week of rumors about a possible military coup, according to media reports.
Local news outlet The Irrawaddy said prominent members of the National League for Democracy Party (LND), headed by Suu Kyi, were detained, while telephone lines and television channels other than those of the military remained cut, although the internet still worked.
“The developments in Myanmar are shocking and a slap in the face to every Myanmar citizen who went out to vote in November’s elections,” Charles Santiago, of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights group, wrote Monday in an online statement. “The military must immediately and unconditionally release any of those arrested as part of the early morning round-up, send their tanks back to the barracks, and restore communication services.”
Soldiers also took control of public television station MRTV, the media noted in a Facebook message to which thousands of users responded with the tags #SaveBurma (as Myanmar was formerly known) and #WeNeedDemocracy among others.
Military personnel also appeared at one of the telecommunication companies that operate in the country.
The army, which through a succession of military junta ruled the country for almost half a century, rejected the rumors Saturday and guaranteed its commitment to upholding the constitution in a statement.
This temporarily quelled rumors of a coup that intensified since Tuesday, when military spokesman Zaw Min Tun refused to rule out a forced power takeover after denouncing alleged irregularities in the Nov. 8 legislative elections.
Suu Kyi’s landslide electoral victory showcased her great popularity in Myanmar, despite her bad international reputation for policies against the Rohingya minority, many of whom are denied citizenship and vote, among other rights.
Monday was the first time the parliament’s new lower house was due to convene, as the military had called for an adjournment.
On Wednesday, Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing said in a speech to military personnel that the Constitution should be abolished if it is not complied with, interpreted as a veiled threat in a country ruled under a dictatorship from 1962 to 2011 when democracy was established.
Alleged irregularities were first denounced by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the now-dissolved party created by the previous military.
The Electoral Commission has denied electoral fraud in the November elections, won overwhelmingly by the National League for Democracy with an 83-percent majority of the Legislature’s 476 seats.
The USDP was the big loser in the election, winning only 33 seats, and has refused to accept the results, even calling for new elections organized by the army to be held.
The military, who drafted the current constitution in a roadmap to achieve a “disciplined democracy,” exercises great power in the country, holding 25 percent of the seats in parliament and the influential Ministries of the Interior, Borders and Defence. EFE-EPA