Boris Johnson condemns military coup in Myanmar as Aung San Suu Kyi detained

1 February 2021, 05:27 | Updated: 1 February 2021, 09:02

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders were detained amid a fractious election result
Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders were detained amid a fractious election result. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson has condemned a coup in Myanmar after the country's military seized power and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi amid a fractious election result.

Ms Suu Kyi and other leaders were taken into custody in the early hours of Monday, with military TV claiming power had been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing because of "election fraud".

The Prime Minister criticised the "unlawful imprisonment of civilians".

He tweeted: "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."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added on Twitter: "The UK condemns the state of emergency in Myanmar and the unlawful detention of figures in the Civilian Government and civil society by the military.

"The democratically expressed wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened."

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It comes after days of rising tensions between the civilian government and the army over the disputed elections.

Myanmar - also known as Burma - was controlled by the military before reforms in 2011 established a government.

An announcer on military-owned Myawaddy TV made the declaration on Monday morning, following days of concern about the threat of a military coup as Myanmar's new parliament session was about to begin.

The Irrawaddy, an established online news service, reported Ms Suu Kyi, the nation's top leader, and the country's president, Win Myint, were detained in the pre-dawn hours of Monday. The news service cited Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for Ms Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy party.

It comes after days of rising tensions between the civilian government and the army over the disputed elections
It comes after days of rising tensions between the civilian government and the army over the disputed elections. Picture: PA

That report said the party's Central Executive Committee members, legislators and regional cabinet members had also been taken into custody.

Phone and internet access to the capital Naypyitaw was lost amid the reported coup.

The US, Australia and others expressed concerned over the reported coup and urged Myanmar's military to respect the rule of law.

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"The United States is alarmed by reports that the Burmese military has taken steps to undermine the country's democratic transition, including the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials in Burma," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement from Washington. She said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the reported developments.

"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," the statement said. Burma is the former name of Myanmar.

Reports said the party's Central Executive Committee members, legislators and regional cabinet members had also been taken into custody
Reports said the party's Central Executive Committee members, legislators and regional cabinet members had also been taken into custody. Picture: PA

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi and 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.

Myanmar legislators were to gather on Monday in Naypyitaw for the first session of parliament since last year's election.

Online news portal Myanmar Now cited unidentified sources about the arrest of Ms Suu Kyi and the NLD's chairperson around dawn and did not have further details.

Myanmar Visual Television and Myanmar Voice Radio posted on Facebook around 6.30am local time that their programmes were not available to broadcast regularly.

The 75-year-old Ms Suu Kyi is by far the country's most dominant politician, and became the country's leader after heading a decades-long non-violent struggle against military rule.

Ms Suu Kyi's party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the combined lower and upper houses of parliament in the November polls, but the military holds 25% 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, alleged massive voting fraud in the election, though it has failed to provide proof. The state Union Election Commission last week rejected its allegations.

Amid the bickering over the allegations, the military last Tuesday ramped up political tension when a spokesman at its weekly news conference, responding to a reporter's question, declined to rule out the possibility of a coup.

Major General Zaw Min Tun elaborated by saying the military would "follow the laws in accordance with the constitution".

Using similar language the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, told senior officers in a speech on Wednesday that the constitution could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced.

Adding to the concern was the unusual deployment of armoured vehicles in the streets of several large cities.

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