Australian citizen and and Aung San Suu Kyi adviser Sean Turnell ‘detained’ by Myanmar’s military


Foreign Minister Marise Payne says the government has called in Myanmar’s Ambassador over reports of Australians being detained following this week’s military coup.

It came as Australian citizen Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said on Saturday he was being detained by Myanmar’s military.

“I’m just being detained at the moment and perhaps charged with something,” he told the BBC.

“I don’t know what that would be – could be anything at all, of course. Everyone is being very polite, but obviously I’m not free to move or anything like that.”

It comes days after Ms Suu Kyi’s own detention during an early morning raid. She faces two years in jail for the possession of illegally imported walkie-talkies, a charge dismissed as absurd by human rights groups.

Senator Payne said on Saturday night that consular assistance was being provided to “a number of Australians”.

“In particular, we have serious concerns about an Australian who has been detained at a police station,” she said.

“We have called in the Myanmar Ambassador and registered the Australian Government’s deep concern about these events.

“The Australian Embassy in Yangon continues to contact Australians in Myanmar to ascertain their safety, to the extent that communications allow.”

Earlier, Mr Turnell sent a message to the Reuters news agency just as he said he was being detained.

“I guess you will soon hear of it, but I am being detained. [I’m] being charged with something, but not sure what. I am fine and strong, and not guilty of anything,” he said, with a smile emoji.

It was the first reported arrest of a foreign national in Myanmar since the army generals seized power on Monday alleging fraud in the 8 November election that Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide.

Mr Turnell has been living in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, since 2017, working as the director of the Myanmar Development Institute. 

He earlier this week posted on social media, thanking people for getting in touch to ensure his safety following the coup.

“Thanks everyone for your concern yesterday. Safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people of Myanmar,” he wrote in a message on Twitter.

Myanmar saw its largest anti-coup protests yet on Saturday. Around 3,000 people gathered near Yangon University, despite a nationwide internet blackout aimed at stifling a growing chorus of popular dissent. 

Protesters demonstrate against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar.

AAP

Similar scenes were observed in Melbourne, with hundreds gathering to condemn Myanmar’s new military regime.

“We couldn’t keep silent and sit in our homes. We would like to show the world and the public in Australia that this is what is happening. We don’t accept the illegal use of force taking the power from the people,” Simon Sang Hre told SBS News

International pressure on the junta is increasing, with the UN Security Council urging the release of detainees and US considering sanctions on the ruling generals.

UN Myanmar envoy Christine Schraner Burgener strongly condemned the military’s actions in a call with the country’s deputy military chief Soe Win and called for the immediate release of all those detained, a UN spokesman said on Friday.

The leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia on Friday said they were seeking a special meeting of Southeast Asian nations to discuss the situation in Myanmar.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed China on the situation in Myanmar in a phone call on Friday – the first conversation between top officials of the two powers since President Joe Biden took office.

Mr Blinken “pressed China to join the international community in condemning the military coup in Burma”, a State Department statement said of the call, using the former name of Myanmar.

China has long enjoyed a privileged relationship with Myanmar, supporting the junta that gave way to democracy a decade ago with US support.

Additional reporting: Reuters, AFP



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Australian advisor to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi detained


Sean Turnell, an Australian economic advisor to Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, said in message to Reuters on Saturday he was being detained, days after she was overthrown in a coup.

“I guess you will soon hear of it, but I am being detained,” he said. “Being charged with something, but not sure what. I am fine and strong, and not guilty of anything,” he said, with a smile emoji.

In audio from a phone call broadcast on Nine News, Mr Turnell said he has not yet been told the reason for his detention. 

“I’m just being detained at the moment and perhaps charged with something. I don’t know what that would be – could be anything at all, of course. Everyone is being very polite, but obviously I’m not free to move or anything like that.”

This is the first known arrest of a foreign national in Myanmar since the army generals seized power alleging fraud in a November 8 election that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide.

Professor Turnell has been living in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, since 2017, working as the director of the Myanmar Development Institute. 

He earlier this week posted on social media, thanking people for getting in touch to ensure his safety following the coup.

“Thanks everyone for your concern yesterday. Safe for now but heartbroken for what all this means for the people of Myanmar,” he wrote in a message on Twitter.

Comment has been sought from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

Myanmar saw its largest anti-coup protests yet on Saturday. Around 3,000 people gathered near Yangon University, despite a nationwide internet blackout aimed at stifling a growing chorus of popular dissent. 

“Down with the military dictatorship!” the crowd yelled, many donning red headbands – the colour associated with ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. 

Protesters demonstrate against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar.

AAP

Similar scenes were observed in the Australian city of Melbourne, with hundreds gathering to condemn Myanmar’s new military regime.

“We couldn’t keep silent and sit in our homes. We would like to show the world and the public in Australia that this is what is happening. We don’t accept the illegal use of force taking the power from the people,” Simon Sang Hre told SBS News

International pressure on the junta increased with the UN Security Council urging the release of detainees and US considering sanctions on the ruling generals.

UN Myanmar envoy Christine Schraner Burgener strongly condemned the military’s actions in a call with the country’s deputy military chief Soe Win and called for the immediate release of all those detained, a UN spokesman said on Friday.

Pots and pans becomes tools of protest in Myanmar

The leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia on Friday said they were seeking a special meeting of Southeast Asian nations to discuss the situation in Myanmar.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed China on the situation in Myanmar – in the first conversation between top officials of the two powers since President Joe Biden took office.

Mr Blinken “pressed China to join the international community in condemning the military coup in Burma,” it said, using the former name of Myanmar.

China has long enjoyed a privileged relationship with Myanmar, supporting the junta that gave way to democracy a decade ago with US support.

Additional reporting: AFP



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Australian adviser to Myanmar’s Suu Kyi ‘detained’ as thousands take to the streets


“We are aware of reports of his arrest and fully support both his work in Myanmar and the efforts of the Australian Government to secure his swift release.”

It comes as thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon on Saturday to denounce Monday’s coup and demand the release of the elected leader, in the first such demonstration since the generals seized power.

Supporters give roses to police while four arrested activists make a court appearance in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Friday.

Supporters give roses to police while four arrested activists make a court appearance in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Friday.Credit:AP

“Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win,” protesters chanted, calling for the military to free the Nobel Peace laureate and other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) who have been detained since the coup.

“Against military dictatorship” read the banner at the front of the march. Many protesters dressed in the NLD’s red colour and some carried red flags.

The military junta has tried to silence dissent by temporarily blocking Facebook and extending a social media crackdown to Twitter and Instagram on Saturday in the face of the growing protest movement.

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand set fire to a picture of military leader Min Aung Hlaing during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Thursday.

Myanmar nationals living in Thailand set fire to a picture of military leader Min Aung Hlaing during a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Thursday.Credit:AP

Authorities ordered internet providers to deny access to Twitter and Instagram “until further notice”, said Norwegian mobile phone company Telenor Asa.

Demand for VPNs has soared in the country, allowing some people to evade the ban, but users reported more general disruption to mobile data services, on which most of 53 million people rely for news and communications.

“We lost freedom, justice and urgently need democracy,” wrote one Twitter user. “Please hear the voice of Myanmar.”

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power alleging fraud in a November 8 election that the NLD won in a landslide. The electoral commission dismissed the army’s accusations.

Detained: Aung San Suu Kyi.

Detained: Aung San Suu Kyi.Credit:AP

The junta announced a one-year state of emergency and has promised to hand over power after new elections, without giving a timeframe.

The takeover drew international condemnation with a United Nations Security Council call for the release of all detainees and targeted sanctions under consideration by Washington.

Suu Kyi, 75, has not been seen in public since the coup. She spent some 15 years under house arrest during a struggle against previous juntas before the troubled democratic transition began in 2011.

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The lawyer for Suu Kyi and ousted President Win Myint said they were being held in their homes and that he was unable to meet them because they were still being questioned. Suu Kyi faces charges of importing six walkie-talkies illegally while Win Myint is accused of flouting coronavirus restrictions.

“Of course, we want unconditional release as they have not broken the law,” said Khin Maung Zaw, the veteran lawyer who is representing both of them.

Saturday’s protest is the first sign of street unrest in a country with a history of bloody crackdowns on protesters. There were also anti-coup protests in Melbourne, Australia, and the Taiwanese capital Taipei also on Saturday.

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A civil disobedience movement has been building in Myanmar all week, with doctors and teachers among those refusing to work, and every night people bang pots and pans in a show of anger.

In addition to about 150 arrests in the wake of the coup reported by human rights groups, local media said around 30 people have been detained over the noise protests.

International pressure

The United States is considering targeted sanctions on individuals and on entities controlled by Myanmar’s military.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in a phone call on Friday to condemn the coup, the State Department said.

China, which has close links to Myanmar’s military, joined the consensus on the Security Council statement but has not condemned the army takeover and has said countries should act in the interests of the stability of its neighbour Myanmar.

UN Myanmar envoy Christine Schraner Burgener strongly condemned the coup in a call with Myanmar’s deputy military chief Soe Win, and called for the immediate release of all those detained, a UN spokesman said.

The generals have few overseas interests that would be vulnerable to international sanctions, but the military’s extensive business investments could suffer if foreign partners leave – as Japanese drinks company Kirin Holdings said it would on Friday.

Telenor, another company attracted to invest by Myanmar’s decade of opening, said it was legally obliged to follow the order to block some social media, but “highlighted the directive’s contradiction with international human rights law.”

US based pressure group Human Rights Watch called for the lifting of the internet restrictions, the release of detainees and an end to threats against journalists.

“A news and information blackout by the coup leaders can’t hide their politically motivated arrests and other abuses,” said Asia director Brad Adams.

Reuters

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Myanmar coup: Senior politician close to Aung San Suu Kyi arrested in crackdown | UK News


A politician who has called for civil disobedience against the military coup in Myanmar has become the latest senior figure to be arrested.

Win Htein, 79, was held at his home in Yangon and taken to the capital Naypyitaw, according to a spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Mr Htein, a long-term confidante of Ms Suu Kyi, said he was being detained for sedition, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Image:
Students from Dagon University in Yangon protest against the military coup

“They don’t like what I’ve been talking about. They are afraid of what I’m saying,” he told the BBC.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said at least 133 officials or politicians and 14 activists had been detained by the military in connection with its takeover on Monday.

Ms Suu Kyi and the ousted president, Win Myint, are being held under charges that enable them to be detained until mid-February, the NLD said.

Since launching its coup, the military has blocked access to Facebook to try to stop protests being organised.

More from Aung San Suu Kyi

The online platform had become the primary tool used to share information because traditional media is state-controlled in Myanmar.

Despite the block on the social media giant signs of resistance continue, with teachers becoming the latest group to join a civil disobedience campaign on Friday, as the NLD announced it would help those arrested or sacked for opposing the military takeover.

Students arrive at a court after being arrested in a demonstration against the coup
Image:
Students arrive at court after being arrested in a demonstration against the coup

Medical personnel have declared they will not work for the military administration, and anti-coup graffiti has appeared in the city of Yangon.

There have also been flash protests on the streets, including one outside a medical school in Mandalay.

Three people were arrested there, and unverified Twitter posts said people were also held following the protests in Yangon.

In contrast, thousands of people joined a rally in Naypyitaw supporting the coup on Thursday, in what may be an attempt to project an image of popular acceptance of the coup.

The military’s seizure of power has attracted international condemnation.

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Myanmar pot banging protests

US President Joe Biden said military leaders should “relinquish power they have seized” and “release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained”.

The UN Security Council stressed the “need to uphold democratic institutions and processes”.

The military has claimed its actions are legal and constitutional because Ms Suu Kyi’s government had allegedly refused to address voting irregularities.

But the state election commission has refuted the allegations and confirmed Ms Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory.

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Analysis: After a decade of freedom, Aung San Suu Kyi returns to detention


Suu Kyi’s victory was lauded within the international community, where it was viewed by many as a triumph of democratic values over the forces of authoritarianism. But true democracy requires more than a single election victory.

The constitution which abolished the military junta maintained for the generals a huge amount of power and influence, leaving Suu Kyi and the NLD in a delicate position as they tried to maintain democratic rights, while avoiding tilting the country backwards into military rule.

While Suu Kyi had little direct authority over actions by the security forces, her public defense of the military — she has called reports of acts of genocide “misinformation” and blamed problems in the region on “terrorists” — saw her denounced overseas, and stripped of numerous titles she won as a democracy campaigner.
Despite this, Suu Kyi remained highly popular in Myanmar itself, and some observers saw her refusal to criticize the military as a necessary pill to swallow to maintain civilian rule. Whether due to compromise or actual belief in what she was saying, it all turned out to be for little this week, as the military seized power in a coup, arresting Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders.

Ten years after her initial release, Suu Kyi now appears to be heading back to where her rise to international prominence began: in detention, her fate at the whims of the Tatmadaw, the military which has ruled over Myanmar for most of the last 50 years.

The circumstances of her arrest this time are far different, however. Suu Kyi is no longer “Asia’s Mandela,” as she was once called. Her complicity in the atrocities against the Rohingya saw her hemorrhaging allies in the West, with even longtime friends denouncing her and calling on her to speak out against the military.
“The West has gone very cold on Aung San Suu Kyi which makes it challenging to back, or speak out strongly, for the National League for Democracy in the same way as the US and Europe did in the 1990s to mid 2010s,” said Tamas Wells, an expert on Myanmar at the University of Melbourne, adding that figures in the military “definitely know this and see that she has less leverage with the international community now.”
While the military gave up some power in the transition to partial democracy, it maintained a tight grip over defense and security matters, including in Rakhine, where soldiers have been accused of burning villages during so-called “clearance operations,” mass rapes, killings and other atrocities.
The United Nations estimates that at least 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown since 2016, which was launched after small scale attacks on border posts and police checkpoints by a Rohingya militant group. Some 720,000 people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, where they have been housed in the world’s biggest refugee camp, at severe risk of malnutrition, flooding and more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
In response to reports coming out of Rakhine, the United States has sanctioned multiple senior Myanmar military figures, including Commander-in-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, who the junta said will lead the country after Suu Kyi was deposed.
This growing pressure had seen both the military and Suu Kyi’s civilian government growing close to Beijing, a formerly strong ally during the junta years which had lost out to Washington as the country transitioned to democracy.

Speaking to CNN Monday, Melissa Crouch, an expert on Myanmar at the University of New South Wales, said that the generals may see such alliances as a potential counterweight to any international outrage that might come as a result of the coup.

“Myanmar has China and Russia on their side, they are not worried about Western democracies,” she said, pointing to recent visits by delegations from both Beijing and Moscow ahead of the coup.

Wells, the University of Melbourne expert, said that Myanmar’s military elites “learned very well how to bunker down in the face of international criticism.”

“And it is arguable that the strong sanctions (on the) regimes of the 1990s and 2000s by the West didn’t do a lot to shift the stance of military elites at the time,” he added. “Covid has obviously taken a toll on the economy and there are already targeted sanctions in place. So there are not a lot of obvious levers for the West to pull.”

The biggest challenge to the coup will come internally, Wells said, and will depend on the military’s ability to control an activist community and middle class that is considerably empowered since 2015, as well businesses and others who have benefited from the international engagement that came after the transition to democracy and will be unwilling to see the country slip back into pariah status.

“In Myanmar there are a lot of people making a lot of money, and they will be pressuring military elites to not disrupt the growth and stability that there has been in the cities,” he added.

And while she has fallen from grace in the eyes of the West, she remains enormously popular among regular citizens in Myanmar. During November’s elections, her party, the NLD, claimed to have won far more than the 322 seats needed to form a majority in parliament, and potentially more than the 390 seats it took in its 2015 landslide, though the military immediately accused the party of unspecified fraud.
Suu Kyi seen in parliament in November 2012.

On Monday, a statement purporting to be from Suu Kyi and published on her party’s official Facebook account called for people to protest against the coup, though there were questions about the statement’s authenticity.

“The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship,” the statement said. “I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”

Suu Kyi has not been seen since she was detained early on Monday morning. The statement ends with her name but is not signed, and it was unclear how Suu Kyi would issue a statement while in detention.

As the coup unfolds, its leaders appear to be making a concerted effort to prevent Suu Kyi’s supporters and other opponents of military rule from organizing against them. As well as Suu Kyi and other senior NLD leaders, there were reports of arrests of numerous members of parliament, representatives of ethnic groups, and human rights activists.

Writing on Twitter, Kelley Currie, a former US State Department official, said that “they seem to be ’rounding up the usual suspects’ not because they are part of the NLD, but because they have a history of organizing the people, getting them in the streets, and they want to preempt that sort of thing.”

“Last time they pulled a coup, there was no (Facebook), no actual internet to speak of in Burma. Mobile phones cost $2,000 for a Nokia. Nobody had computers or cars. It was a different Burma,” she wrote, adding that senior military figures “may not realize this because they are still kind of disconnected from society.”

At least someone was aware of the potential for the internet to serve as a means to organize resistance however. As the coup was unfolding Monday morning, internet and phone coverage was cut off in parts of the country, and television stations were blocked or forced offline, as people scrambled to try and find out what was going on.

Thant Myint-U, author of “The Hidden History of Burma,” wrote on Twitter that watching developments unfolding, “I have a sinking feeling that no one will really be able to control what comes next.”

“And remember Myanmar’s a country awash in weapons, with deep divisions across ethnic (and) religious lines, where millions can barely feed themselves,” he added.



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Reversion to type – Aung San Suu Kyi is arrested as Myanmar’s generals seize power | Asia


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Myanmar police charge ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, days after military coup


Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup, as calls for civil disobedience to oppose the putsch gathered pace.

The Southeast Asian nation was plunged back into direct military rule when soldiers arrested key civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids on Monday, ending the army’s brief flirtation with democracy.

Ms Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) last November, but the military – whose favoured parties received a drubbing – declared the polls fraudulent. 

On Wednesday, the NLD’s press officer said the 75-year-old was formally charged with an offence under Myanmar’s import and export law, with a court signing off on two weeks’ remand.

The unusual charge stemmed from a search of her house following her arrest in which walkie-talkies were discovered, according to a leaked police charging document seen by reporters.

A similarly unorthodox charge under the country’s disaster management law against President Win Myint revolved around him allegedly breaching anti-coronavirus measures last year by meeting voters on the campaign trail.

With soldiers and armoured cars back on the streets of major cities, the takeover has not been met by any large street protests.

But signs of public anger and plans to resist have begun to flicker.

Doctors and medical staff at multiple hospitals across the country announced Wednesday they were donning red ribbons and walking away from all non-emergency work to protest against the coup.

“Our main goal is to accept only the government we elected,” Aung San Min, head of a 100-bed hospital in Gangaw district, told AFP.

Soldiers stand guard along a blockaded road near Myanmar’s parliament in Naypyidaw on 2 February.

AFP via Getty Images

Some medical teams posted pictures on social media wearing red ribbons – NLD colours – and raising a three-finger salute, a protest gesture used by democracy activists in neighbouring Thailand, while some have chosen to bypass work altogether.

“My protest starts today by not going to the hospital… I have no desire to work under the military dictatorship,” said Nor Nor Wint Wah, a doctor in Mandalay.

Activists were announcing their campaigns on a Facebook group called “Civil Disobedience Movement” which by Wednesday afternoon had more than 150,000 followers within 24 hours of its launch.

The clatter of pots and pans – and the honking of car horns – also rang out across the commercial capital Yangon on Wednesday evening for a second night in a row after calls for protest went out on social media.

In some neighbourhoods, residents shouted in the streets and sang democracy protest songs.

Late on Wednesday, the military issued a statement rejecting rumours that 5000 kyat and 10,000 kyat notes would be demonetised.

Demonetising of bank notes was a key factor in an 1988 uprising.

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Myanmar Military Charges Aung San Suu Kyi With Obscure Infraction


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar civilian leader deposed by the military in a coup, was charged on Wednesday with an obscure infraction of having illegally imported at least 10 walkie-talkies, according to an information officer from her National League for Democracy party. The violation can be punishable by up to three years in prison.

The court detention order, provided by officials from the party that governed Myanmar until the putsch on Monday, was dated on the day of the coup and authorizes Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention for 15 days. The document said that soldiers searching her villa in Naypyidaw, the capital, had turned up various pieces of communications equipment that had been brought into the country without proper paperwork.

It was a bizarre postscript to a fraught 48 hours in which the army placed the country’s most popular leader back under house arrest and extinguished hopes that the Southeast Asian nation could one day serve as a beacon of democracy in a world awash with rising authoritarianism.

The coup unseated an elected government that, during its five-year tenure, received two resounding voter mandates, most recently in general elections last November.

As the predawn putsch progressed, the military, which had ruled the country outright for nearly five decades before its brief experiment in democracy was quashed, resorted to the familiar playbook of dictatorship: shutting down internet service, suspending flights and detaining its critics. Apart from Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, the list of those who were rounded up included her most loyal ministers, Buddhist monks, writers, activists and a filmmaker.

Still, in the stunned silence that followed the military’s seizure of power, few soldiers patrolled the streets. By Monday evening, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was back in her villa in Naypyidaw, rather than languishing in one of the country’s notorious prison cells. There were no further mass detentions, and the internet came back online.

On Tuesday, activists organized small civil disobedience campaigns, banging pots and pans or honking their car horns to protest the coup. Dozens of workers at one mobile network quit in objection to their employer’s military links. And doctors at one hospital posed together, each with three fingers raised in a defiant salute from the “Hunger Games” films. The gesture has become a symbol of the pro-democracy protests in neighboring Thailand, where coup rumors have also swirled.

The charge laid against Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who served a total of 15 years in house arrest before the generals released her in 2010, echoed previous accusations of esoteric legal crimes. In one case, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi had her lockup extended because an American man swam up to her lakeside villa unannounced, causing her to violate the terms of her confinement.

But if such crimes seem absurd, they carry real consequences. Along with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, one of her political acolytes who was also detained on Monday, was issued a detention order for violating emergency coronavirus regulations. He was accused of greeting a car full of supporters during the electoral campaign season last year, the information officer for the National League for Democracy said.

If found guilty, Mr. Win Myint could also face three years in prison. Holding a criminal record could preclude him from returning to the presidency.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council, which had convened an emergency meeting on Myanmar, declined to issue a statement condemning the coup, with China and Russia in opposition.

Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, staged its first coup in 1962, a bloody exercise that paved the way for nearly five decades of iron-fisted direct rule. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and leading lights of her National League for Democracy were locked up during what should have been their political prime.

The generals ordered the massacres of pro-democracy protesters and dispatched their soldiers to clear members of ethnic minority groups off their lands. Even when the junta began giving a civilian administration some space to operate, it ensured the army would still control much of the economic and political sphere.

Confirmation of the charge against Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her peaceful resistance to the army, trickled out on Wednesday amid a whirlwind of rumors. Early in the afternoon, lawmakers with the National League for Democracy traded scraps of misinformation, even as they were under military detention themselves.

One rumor had it that she would be charged with high treason, a crime punishable by death. Another iteration said she was being accused of electoral fraud. No one guessed that her supposed sin would involve walkie-talkies.

In a statement released on Tuesday by the office of the army chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Tatmadaw said it had acted in the best interests of Myanmar’s citizens.

“Throughout the successive periods, the Myanmar Tatmadaw has been keeping in fore the motto ‘People Are the Parents,’ when it comes to the people,” the statement said, before insisting that mass voter fraud in elections last November had compelled it to stage a coup.

The National League for Democracy, which oversaw the nation’s electoral commission, rejected the Tatmadaw’s accusation that voter manipulation had led to a poor showing by the military’s proxy party.

On Wednesday, National League for Democracy lawmakers who had been confined to their living quarters by soldiers issued a statement saying that they still supported Mr. Win Myint as president. They rejected suggestions that they had been relieved of their legislative duties. The national assembly was supposed to convene for the first time since the November elections on the very day of the coup.

“Stop the intervention actions,” the lawmakers cautioned the Tatmadaw. It seemed a warning two days too late.

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Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for people to oppose any coup before she was detained, party says


A verified Facebook account from Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party has published a statement on behalf of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying that people should not accept a military coup and should protest.

The NLD said the statement, which was uploaded on a Facebook page used by the party during its election campaign, was written before Monday’s coup had taken place. Reuters could not immediately reach NLD party officials for comment.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was detained in early morning raids along with other key party figures and activists.

Myanmar’s military declared it had taken control of the country for one year under a state of emergency. 

“The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship,” said the statement, which carried leader Suu Kyi’s name but not her signature.

“I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military.”

The statement was issued by the party chairman Win Htein, who in a handwritten note at the bottom stressed it was authentic and reflected Suu Kyi’s wishes.

“On my life I swear, that this request to the people is Aung San Suu Kyi’s genuine statement,” wrote Win Htein, who could not be reached by Reuters.

A handout photo made available by the International Court of Justice shows Aung San Suu Kyi appearing before the ICJ in 2019.

UN PHOTO

The intervention came after weeks of rising tensions between the military, which ruled the country for nearly five decades, and the civilian government over allegations of fraud in November’s elections.

The military last week signalled it could seize power to settle its claims of irregularities in the polls, which Suu Kyi’s NLD party won easily.

NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone that Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning.

“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” he said, adding he also expected to be detained.

The military then declared, via its own television channel, a one-year state of emergency. 

Phone lines to Naypyitaw, the capital, were not reachable in the early hours of Monday. Parliament had been due to start sitting there on Monday after a November election the NLD had won in a landslide.

All Myanmar banks across the country were closed on Monday due to a poor internet connection while state-run MRTV television said in a Facebook post that it was unable to broadcast due to technical issues.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne demanded Myanmar’s army immediately release de facto leader Suu Kyi and other elected leaders, warning the military was “once again seeking to seize control” of the country.

“We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully,” Ms Payne said in a statement.

“We strongly support the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, consistent with the results of the November 2020 general election.”

Labor’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs Penny Wong also condemned the apparent coup.

“This is a direct attack on Myanmar’s ongoing democratic transition,” she said in a tweet.

“We look to the Australian Government to make clear our expectations that democratic norms are respected and strengthened,” she said. 

Asked about the situation in Myanmar at the National Press Club on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the developments as “disappointing” and said Australia had, alongside other nations including Canada, the UK, the US, New Zealand and some EU countries, issued a statement on Friday opposing efforts to to alter the election outcome and urging the military and all parties to adhere to democratic norms.

The country continued to face many challenges as it attempted to shape its future, he added.

“We all hope for Myanmar. We all hope for what I know the Myanmar people want to achieve. I found them the most beautiful of people when I was there, so peaceful in nature but having suffered such terrible violence over the course of their nation’s history.”

Other countries have also condemned the military’s overnight raids.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Myanmar military leaders to immediately release Suu Kyi and other detained officials and civil society leaders.

“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8,” Mr Blinken said.

“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.”

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato called on the parties concerned “to resolve the issue peacefully through dialogue in accordance with the democratic process”.

Myanmar’s easter neighbour China on Monday called for all parties to “resolve their differences” to “protect political and social stability”.

Myanmar is a vital piece of China’s Belt and Road Initiative – Chinese President Xi Jinping’s $US1 trillion ($A1.3 trillion) vision for maritime, rail and road projects across Asia, Africa and Europe – including a proposed $8.9 billion ($A11.6 billion) high-speed rail link from southern Yunnan province to Myanmar’s west coast.

Weeks of rising tensions

Tensions were ramped up last Tuesday when a military spokesman refused to rule out the possibility of a coup following claims of widespread irregularities that led to Suu Kyi’s landslide election win.

A day later, army chief General Min Aung Hlaing – arguably the most powerful person in Myanmar – said revoking the 2008 junta-scripted constitution could be “necessary” under certain circumstances.

His comments – translated into English and published in the army-run Myawady newspaper – sent shockwaves through the nascent democracy, which is only a decade out of the grips of a 49-year military dictatorship.

On Saturday the army released a statement claiming its commander-in-chief had been misunderstood, though the statement did not directly address fears of an imminent coup.

“Some organisations and media defined the speech of the Commander-in-Chief as they liked… without respecting the full text of the speech,” said an English translation of the statement.

“The Tatmadaw is abiding by the constitution… (and) will perform its tasks within the frame of enacted law while safeguarding it,” it added, referring to the army by its official Burmese name.

Military supporters carry Myanmar's national flags during a protest to demand an inquiry to investigate the Union Election Commission (UEC) in Yangon on 30 January 2021.

Fears swirl in Myanmar about a possible coup by the military over electoral fraud concerns.

AFP

Suu Kyi remains an immensely popular figure in Myanmar despite her international reputation being deeply tarnished over a crackdown on the country’s stateless Rohingya minority in 2017.

Myanmar has been ruled by military regimes for most of its history since independence from former colonial power Britain in 1948.

General Ne Win ousted a civilian administration in 1962, saying it was not competent enough to govern. 

He ran the country for the next 26 years but stepped down in 1988 after huge nationwide protests against economic stagnation and authoritarian rule. 

A new generation of military leaders headed took command a few weeks later, citing the need to restore law and order in the country. 

Junta leader General Than Shwe stepped down in 2011, handing over power to a government of retired generals after adopting the country’s current constitution.

Will the constitution stand?

The 2008 constitution carves out a powerful ongoing political role for the military, giving them control of the key interior, border and defence ministries. 

Any changes need the support of military lawmakers, who control a quarter of seats in the country’s parliament.

Its guarantee of military power makes the constitution a “deeply unpopular” document, according to Yangon-based political analyst Khin Zaw Win. 

Suu Kyi and her government have been trying to amend the charter since winning the 2015 election, with little success.

During the last term she circumvented a rule that prevented her from assuming the presidency by taking the de facto leadership role of “state counsellor”.

This loophole is one of several the military did not foresee, political analyst Soe Myint Aung said. 

“From their perspective, it has lost significant control over the political process,” he told AFP.



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Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military takes control ‘for a year’


M

yanmar’s military has carried out a coup after detaining the de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.  

The military said it was taking control of the country for a year as soldiers reportedly took to the streets of the capital Nay Pyi Taw, and the main city of Yangon.  

Commanders have alleged massive voting fraud in last year’s election, which was won by Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The coup was declared on Monday morning on the military-owned Myawaddy TV.

The Irrawaddy, an established online news service, reported that Ms Suu Kyi, the nation’s top leader, and the country’s president, Win Myint, were detained overnight.

News of the military coup has been met with international condemnation. The US and Australia were among countries voicing concern and urging Myanmar’s military to respect the rule of law.

“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.

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 Nay Pyi Taw 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 per cent 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.

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