Yangon, Myanmar, Feb 1 (efe-epa).- Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi condemned Monday’s military coup and told people not to accept the putsch, hours after she was arrested and the army’s commander-in-chief was granted power.
The former de-facto leader’s statement came after Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, 64, took control of the country following the declaration of a yearlong state of emergency.
“The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship,” Su Kyi said in a statement published on Facebook by her party, the National League for Democracy. “I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”
Monday’s coup came hours after the military arrested several politicians, including Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and members of their party. Military news outlet Myawaddy said Myint Swe had temporarily replaced the president.
Swe was until now Myanmar’s vice president, appointed by the military as per the country’s constitution. The interim leader declared emergency rule after Myint’s arrest and transferred power to Aung Hlaing. According to Myanmar’s charter, only the country’s president can make such a declaration and transfer power to the army chief.
The events follow days of rumors about a possible military coup, stoked when the army failed to rule one out last week.
Hours earlier, at least 36 political detentions followed cut telephone lines and television channels other than those of the military, although the internet still worked. The incident was condemned by the United States shortly after Suu Kyi’s arrest.
“The United States is alarmed by reports that the [Myanmar] 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 [Myanmar],” US Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement by the White House.
Psaki said US President Joe Biden had been briefed and said the country would “take action against those responsible” if Myanmar did not reverse these actions.
This was followed by a statement from US State Secretary Anthony Blinken, who called on civilian rule to be immediately reinstated.
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.
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, 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.
Aung Hlaing said Monday during a security council meeting that the alleged irregularities would be investigated and new elections would be held before power was transferred to the victor, according to the Myawaddy channel.
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.