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The US warned Myanmar after its military staged a coup on Monday that it would “take action” unless the “rule of law” is not restored and detainees, including Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and senior political leaders of the Southeast Asian nation, are released.
The Myanmar army announced on military-owned television that it had imposed a state of emergency for a year and turned power over to military chief Min Aung Hlaing, claiming the government had not acted on its allegations of fraud in November’s election that saw Suu Kyi’s ruling party win a majority of seats available in parliament.
The military also argued that the government allowed the election to proceed despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The US State Department and the White House quickly put out statements condemning the coup.
President Biden’s White House said it was “alarmed” by the military’s actions to “undermine the country’s democratic transition” in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
“We continue to affirm our strong support for Burma’s democratic institutions and, in coordination with our regional partners, urge the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law, and to release those detained today,” the statement released by White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“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,” it continued, adding that the US will continue to monitor the situation.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement called for the release of government officials 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. The military must reverse these actions immediately,” it said.
Reports of the coup had been percolating for days, and Suu Kyi’s party released comments on Facebook, written in anticipation of the military action, urging her supporters to protest the takeover.
The military leaders struck in the hours before parliament was expected to convene for the first time since the November elections, which were widely viewed as a referendum on Suu Kyi’s democratic rule.
The military argued that the government takeover is legal and cited a section of the constitution it drafted showing it can assume control in case of a national emergency.
Phone and internet connections in the capital, Naypyitaw, and in the main commercial center of Yangon were disrupted, while state television went blank after Suu Kyi and the other government leaders were detained.
Passenger air flights were also grounded.
Banking operations — such as ATMs — across the country were also experiencing problems because of the internet outages.
Pro-democracy activists blasted the military for overturning the people’s vote.
“Our country was a bird that was just learning to fly. Now the army broke our wings,” student activist Si Thu Tun told Reuters.
“The NLD is the government we voted for. If they’re unhappy with the result, they can call another election. A coup isn’t acceptable,” a woman who asked not to be identified told Reuters, referring to the ruling National League for Democracy.
The coup was a devastating defeat for Suu Kyi, the 75-year-old peace prize laureate who attempted to push her country toward democracy after having spent years under house arrest and as Myanmar was trying to emerge from decades of military rule.
She became the country’s de facto leader after her NLD party won elections in 2015.
But she also came under fierce criticism in international circles for defending the military’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, which the US and other nations described as genocide.
With Post wires
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