Military forces have seized control of the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, citing disputed claims of electoral fraud and throwing numerous high-profile figures in jail.
Among those to be imprisoned is the Nobel Prize-winning politician Aung San Suu Kyi, who helped the country transition to democracy in the 2010s and had been leading the nation as State Counsellor.
Reporting out of Myanmar has been hampered by the military’s disruption of phone and internet services, and local TV stations are also off air, but several publications have written that other figures believed to have been detained include the filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, who has previously spent time behind bars as a political prisoner for his criticism of the military, and the writer Maung Thar Cho.
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Tensions have been bubbling in the country since a November election which saw a landslide win for Suu Kyi’s political party, the NLD, with the military-backed party USDP losing ground.
The military has claimed that it found irregularities in the voting process – an accusation disputed by the country’s election commission.
“Although the sovereignty of the nation must derive from the people, there was terrible fraud in the voter list during the democratic general election which runs contrary to ensuring a stable democracy,” a statement from the army read, reported by Reuters.
Following the coup, which was timed with the resumption of parliament, commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has assumed power and a one-year state of emergency has been declared.
There have been anti-coup protests today in the neighboring country of Thailand, with demonstrators clashing with riot police; the Thai government has said the action was an internal Myanmar matter, according to local reports.
The military’s action has been widely condemned by the global political community.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the release of Suu Kyi and others, saying the country had “grave concern and alarm” over the reports. “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,” he was quoted as saying.
The Australian government also released a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the news.
UK PM Boris Johnson tweeted the below message:
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
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