Myanmar’s military seized control in a coup Monday, detaining the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her top deputies during early morning raids. Army-run TV said a state of emergency in the Southeast Asian nation was declared for one year.
The coup follows a disputed election in November that Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won by a landslide. The main opposition party, the army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, claimed the vote was marred by fraud. Myanmar's election commission rejected the allegations but tensions between the two sides had been rising for weeks. The military made its move hours before Myanmar's parliament had been due to sit for the first time since the National League for Democracy's win in the Nov. 8 general election. The vote was just the second democratic election in Myanmar, also known as Burma, since military rule ended in 2011.
What's the situation on the ground?
Power has been transferred to General Min Aung Hlaing, commander of Myanmar's armed forces. Thomas Kean, the editor of Frontier Myanmar, a news and business magazine based in Yangon, the country's largest city and former capital, said the country woke up to widespread communications blackouts and people were uncertain if they should go to work. Soldiers were patrolling the streets. Banks have halted all services. The military confirmed Suu Kyi was detained for alleged voting irregularities in November's election. Cabinet ministers, lawmakers and some prominent writers and activists have also been reported missing by their friends and family. Myanmar's President U Win Myint – who has a largely ceremonial role – was also detained.
What has the reaction been?
The White House said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation. In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed "grave concern and alarm" over the coup and called on authorities to release government and civil society leaders. "The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace and development," Blinken said. He called on the military to "reverse these actions immediately." Rights group said the coup is a major blow to Myanmar's transition from military rule to democracy, which began about a decade ago.
Who is Aung San Suu Kyi?
Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years under house arrest by Myanmar's military rulers until her release in 2010. She was widely hailed as democracy hero. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for human rights. In 2015, Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy party to victory in Myanmar's first openly contested election in 25 years. However, Suu Kyi's international reputation has been severely tarnished in recent years because of staunch her defense of Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya population, a Muslim minority group. Rights groups say Myanmar's military has committed genocide against the Rohingya. Myanmar denies the allegations and has long claimed to have been targeting terrorists. Suu Kyi remains popular inside Myanmar with the country's Buddhist majority. She is often described as Myanmar's "de facto" leader because the nation's constitution forbade her from becoming president because she has children who are foreign nationals.