Myanmar’s military has detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other senior figures from the governing party, seizing power in a coup less than 10 years after it handed over power to a civilian government.
The military said on Monday it carried out the detentions in response to fraud in last November’s general election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide.
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A statement on military-owned television said Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was now in control of the country and that a state of emergency had been imposed for one year.
“With the situation we see happening now, we have to assume that the military is staging a coup,” Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for the NLD, told the AFP news agency on Monday.
Here is how governments, human rights groups and others are reacting.
The NLD, in a statement in Aung San Suu Kyi’s name, called on Myanmar’s public not to accept the military coup.
“The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship,” the statement said. “I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”
Thant Myint-U, a prominent Myanmar historian and author, said in a tweet that the coup had opened doors to “a very different future”.
“I have a sinking feeling that noone will really be able to control what comes next,” he said. “And remember Myanmar’s a country awash in weapons, with deep divisions across ethnic and religious lines, where millions can barely feed themselves.”
China said it hopes all sides in Myanmar can manage their differences within the constitutional and legal framework and uphold stability.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin made the comments at a daily news briefing in Beijing.
Bangladesh called for peace and stability in Myanmar and said it hoped to continue the process of voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees with its neighbour.
“We have been persistent in developing mutually beneficial relations with Myanmar and have been working with Myanmar for the voluntary, safe and sustained repatriation of the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Reuters news agency in a statement.
“We expect these processes to continue in right earnest.”
Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed deep concern “at reports the Myanmar military is once again seeking to seize control of Myanmar and has detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint”.
“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.”
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said it has limited information on the situation in Myanmar since Tehran does not have an embassy there and communication channels are limited.
“But I know this much that we have always expressed our serious concerns about the conditions and rights of minorities of all kinds,” Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters in Tehran.
He said Iran hopes the “quasi-coup” will not lead to deteriorating conditions for minorities, adding that “we all know the 21st century can never be a century for this type of power shifts”.
US President Joe Biden said the military takeover and detention of civilian officials is “a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law”.
“We will work with our partners throughout the region and the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to hold accountable those responsible for overturning Burma’s democratic transition,” Biden said in a statement.
US Secretary of State, Antony J Blinken, also expressed “grave concern” in a statement and urged the military to “reverse” its actions immediately.
“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8. The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development,” he said.
European Council President Charles Michel condemned the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar and demanded that it release of all those it had detained in raids across the country.
“The outcome of the elections has to be respected and democratic process needs to be restored,” Michel wrote on his Twitter account.
I strongly condemn the coup in #Myanmar and call on the military to release all who have been unlawfully detained in raids across the country.
The outcome of the elections has to be respected and democratic process needs to be restored.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) February 1, 2021
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, “strongly condemned” the detention of Myanmar’s civilian leaders on the eve of the opening session of the country’s new parliament.
He also expressed “his grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military,” and added: “These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar.”
Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said she was alarmed by reports that 45 people have been detained and urged their immediate release.
Bachelet said in a statement from Geneva that there are “deep fears of a violent crackdown on dissenting voices” and pressed for the military to “refrain from using unnecessary or excessive force.”
“I urge the international community to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar at this time, and for all states with influence to take steps to prevent the crumbling of the fragile democratic and human rights gains made by Myanmar during its transition from military rule,” Bachelet said.
India’s foreign ministry said it “noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern”.
“India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely.”
Singapore’s foreign ministry urged all sides in Myanmar to show restraint.
“Singapore expresses grave concern about the latest situation in Myanmar. We are monitoring the situation closely and hope all parties involved will exercise restraint, maintain dialogue, and work towards a positive and peaceful outcome,” the ministry said in a statement.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and the “imprisonment of civilians” in a post on Twitter.
“The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.”
I condemn the coup and unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in Myanmar. The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 1, 2021
Japan said that it strongly supports democracy in Myanmar and that it was against the reversal of the process, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained.
“The Japanese government has up to now strongly supported the democratic process in Myanmar, and oppose any reversal of that process,” said a statement released by the Foreign Ministry in the name of foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi.
The Philippines is prioritising the safety of its citizens in Myanmar and sees events in the country as “an internal matter that we will not meddle with”, a spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte said.
Longtime Cambodian leader Hun Sen referred to Myanmar’s military coup as the “internal affairs” of the country and declined further comment.
The Indonesian foreign ministry expressed concern over the developments in Myanmar, and called for the adherence to the “principles of democracy and constitutional government”.
“Indonesia urges all parties in Myanmar to exercise self-restraint and put forth dialogue in finding solutions to challenges so as not to exacerbate the condition,” it said in a statement.
The Malaysian foreign ministry called on the “Myanmar military and all relevant parties to give utmost priority to the maintenance of peace and security in Myanmar, uphold the rule of law, and resolve any electoral discrepancies through established legal mechanisms and dialogue in a peaceful manner”.
It added: “Malaysia reaffirms the strong support for Myanmar’s democratic transition, peace process and inclusive economic development.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Brad Adams, the Asia director at HRW, called for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and “all others unlawfully detained”.
“The military’s actions show utter disdain for the democratic elections held in November and the right of Myanmar’s people to choose their own government,” he said in a statement.
“We are especially concerned for the safety and security of activists and other critics of the military who may have been taken into custody. The military should recognize that it will be held accountable for its actions, including any mistreatment in custody and excessive use of force. We urge concerned governments to speak out forcefully against the military’s actions and consider targeted sanctions against those responsible.”
Germany strongly condemned the seizure of power and the accompanying arrests, its foreign minister said.
“The military actions jeopardise the progress made so far towards democratic change in Myanmar,” Heiko Maas said in a statement.
France called for the immediate release of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and for the Myanmar military to respect the results of the November 8 election.
“This arrest, as well as the transfer of legislative, executive and judicial power to the army is an unacceptable threat to the democratic process that was started about 10 years ago,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.
New Zealand said it is “deeply concerned” by the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar and called for “a rapid return to civilian rule”.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a statement: “New Zealand is a long-standing supporter of Myanmar’s democratic transition.”
“We call for the swift release of all those political actors detained,” Mahuta said.
Ming Yu Hah, the deputy regional director at Amnesty International, called the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and others “extremely alarming”.
“Reports of a telecommunications blackout pose a further threat to the population at such a volatile time – especially as Myanmar battles a pandemic, and as internal conflict against armed groups puts civilians at risk in several parts of the country. It is vital that full phone and internet services be resumed immediately.”
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has condemned the coup and arrests of government officials in Myanmar.
“We call for the immediate release of all those detained and the restoration of the democratic process,” Sánchez said in a tweet. “The Constitution and the electoral results must be respected.”
The Czech Republic
The Czech Republic’s foreign ministry said in a statement it supports Myanmar’s “legitimate leadership” and has called for their release.
“We have always supported transition to democracy and efforts to promote lasting peace, freedom, human rights and prosperity for all the people of Myanmar,” the Czech ministry tweeted.
Turkey, which has a history of military takeovers and whose government survived a coup attempt as recently as 2016, strongly condemned the military’s actions in Myanmar and expressed its “deep concerns.”
“Turkey is opposed to all kinds of coups and military intervention,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It called for the immediate release of all elected leaders, political figures and civilians and for the country’s parliament to convene as soon as possible.
The statement also said it hopes the “dire development” would not exacerbate the situation of minority Rohingya Muslims.
A statement from Italy’s foreign ministry said: “The will of the population clearly emerged in the last elections and must be respected. We are concerned about this abrupt interruption of the democratic transition process and we ask that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms be guaranteed.”
The chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) called for “a return to normalcy” in Myanmar, a member of the 10-nation bloc.
“We recall the purposes and the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter, including, the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Brunei, the group’s current chairman, said in a statement.
“We reiterate that the political stability in ASEAN Member States is essential to achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous ASEAN Community. We encourage the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”