The Myanmar military seized power yesterday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested along with other leaders of her party, in raids, during the early hours of the morning.
Western countries condemned the sudden turn of events that ended years of efforts to establish democracy in the poor country and raised questions about signs of the return of one million Rohingya refugees.
The army said it had responded to “election fraud”, handed over power to its commander, General Min Aung Hlaing, and imposed a one-year state of emergency in the country also known as Burma, over which China has strong influence.
The army’s move came hours before the parliament was due for the first time since the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy party in the elections held on the eighth of November, which was considered a referendum on the nascent democratic rule of Suu Kyi.
In a summary of the new military council meeting, the military said that Min Aung Hlaing, who was nearing retirement, pledged to practice “a truly multi-party and prosperous democracy.” He promised to hold free and fair elections and hand over power to the winning party. And the military rulers announced the dismissal of the San Suu Kyi government, the removal of 24 ministers and deputy ministers, and the appointment of 11 ministers in their new administration after they seized power.
The United Nations led the condemnation of the coup and the demand for the release of detainees and the restoration of democracy in statements similar to those made by Australia, Britain, the European Union, India, Japan and the United States. US President Joe Biden’s administration is under pressure to have a swift and strong response to the coup, a crisis that could be the first major test of its drive to work with allies on a new strategy in Asia to confront China.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called on the leaders of the Myanmar army to release Suu Kyi and the other detainees, and the White House said it opposes any attempt to change the outcome of the November 8th elections in Myanmar, while pledging to “take action against those responsible unless they backtrack on these steps.”
The US government has not specified the measures that may be under consideration, but it may strengthen the sanctions already in place and impose new sanctions on Myanmar.
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