Hundreds of members of Myanmar’s Parliament remained confined inside their government housing in the country’s capital on Tuesday, a day after the military staged a coup and detained senior politicians including Nobel laureate and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, meanwhile, released a statement calling for the military to honour the results of last November’s election and release all of those detained.
“The commander-in-chief seizing the power of the nation is against the constitution and it also neglects the sovereign power of people,” the party said in a statement on one of its Facebook pages.
One legislator said he and some 400 members of parliament were able to speak with one another inside the compound and communicate with their constituencies by phone, but were not allowed to leave the housing complex in Naypyitaw. He said police were inside the complex, with soldiers outside.
The legislator said the politicians, comprised of members of Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and various smaller parties, spent a sleepless night worried that they might be taken away, but were otherwise OK.
“We had to stay awake and be alert,” said the politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The takeover took place on the morning politicians from across the country had gathered in the capital for the opening of the new parliamentary session and followed days of worry that a coup was coming.
The military said the seizure was necessary because the government had not acted on the military’s claims of fraud in November’s elections — in which Ms Suu Kyi’s ruling party won a strong majority — and because it did not delay the opening of Parliament.
An announcement read on military-owned Myawaddy TV on Monday said Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, would be in charge of the country for one year.
Late on Monday, the office of the commander-in-chief announced the names of new Cabinet ministers. The 11-member Cabinet is composed of military generals, former military generals and former advisers to a previous government headed by former general Thein Sein.
The coup is a dramatic reversion for Myanmar, which was emerging from decades of strict military rule and international isolation that began in 1962.
It now presents a test for the international community, which had ostracised Myanmar while it was under military rule, then enthusiastically embraced Ms Suu Kyi’s government as a sign the country was finally on the path to democracy. US President Joe Biden threatened new sanctions, which the country had previously faced.
On Tuesday in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, the streets were quieter than usual but taxis and buses were still running and there were no outward signs of heavy security.
The English-language Myanmar Times headlined the state of emergency, while other state-owned newspapers showed front-page photographs of Monday’s National Defence and Security Council meeting, which the newly appointed Acting President Myint Swe and Min Aung Hlaing attended with other military officials.
The military has maintained its actions are legally justified — citing a section of the constitution it drafted that allows it to take control in times of national emergency — though Ms Suu Kyi’s party spokesman as well as many international observers have said it amounts to a coup.
The takeover marks a shocking fall from power for Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who had lived under house arrest for years as she tried to push her country toward democracy and then became its de facto leader after her party won elections in 2015.
Ms Suu Kyi had been a fierce critic of the army during her years in detention. But after her shift from democracy icon to politician, she needed to work with the generals, who despite allowing elections had never fully given up power.
While the 75-year-old has remained popular at home, Ms Suu Kyi’s deference to the generals — going so far as to defend their crackdown on Rohingya Muslims that the United States and others have labelled genocide — has left her reputation tarnished abroad.
The coup was met with international condemnation and many countries called for the release of the detained leaders.
Mr Biden called the military’s actions “a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law” and said Washington would not hesitate to restore sanctions.
“The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack,” he said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the developments a “serious blow to democratic reforms,” according to his spokesman.
The Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the military’s actions — likely on Tuesday, according to Britain, which currently holds the council presidency.