A military coup is underway in Myanmar as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader, and other senior officials in the ruling party have been placed under house arrest.
The early morning detentions on Monday follow an announcement on Myanmar military TV that the military has taken control of the country for one year.
The announcement follows days of concern about the threat of a military coup and comes as the country’s new parliament session was to begin. Myanmar lawmakers were to gather on Monday in the capital Naypyitaw for the first session of parliament since last year’s election.
Tensions between the civilian government and the military have increased over the results of the elections in November.
Earlier this week the army said a coup could not be ruled out if complaints of widespread voting fraud in the election were ignored.
Myanmar’s election commission went on to reject allegations that fraud played a significant role in delivering a landslide victory to Ms Suu Kyi’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won only 33 seats.
The Irrawaddy, an established online news service, reported that Ms Suu Kyi, and the country’s president, Win Myint, were both detained in the pre-dawn hours on Monday. The news service cited Myo Nyunt, a spokesperson for the NLD.
“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he added, saying that he also expected to be detained.
Another NLD official, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said one of those detained was Han Thar Myint, a member of the party’s central executive committee.
Myanmar state television said on Facebook that it was unable to broadcast “due to communication problems”, while phone lines to the capital were not working.
The White House released a statement condemning the apparent coup: “The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed.”
Australian foreign minister Marise Payne called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi and the others reported to be detained. “We strongly support the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, consistent with the results of the November 2020 general election,” she said.
The military ran Myanmar for nearly 50 years following a coup in 1962, before beginning a transition to democracy with a general election in 2010.
Ms Suu Kyi was detained under house arrest for much of the period between 1989 and 2010 and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.
Her international standing was damaged after her country’s brutal crackdown on the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state, but she remains hugely popular at home.
The NLD captured 396 out of 476 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of parliament in the November polls, but the military holds 25 per cent of the total seats under the 2008 military-drafted constitution and several key ministerial positions are also reserved for military appointees.
The military, known as the Tatmadaw, charged that there was massive voting fraud in the election, although it has failed to provide proof. The state Union Election Commission last week rejected its allegations.
Myanmar’s military had said on Saturday it would protect and abide by the constitution and act according to law after comments earlier in the week had raised fears of a coup.
Myanmar’s election commission has rejected the military’s allegations of vote fraud, saying there were no errors big enough to affect the credibility of the vote.
The military controls three key ministries in Ms Suu Kyi’s administration.
In December she defended her country against a charge of genocide at the International Court of Justice, saying the situation there is “complex”.
Additional reporting by agencies