The United States led governments around the world in calling for the restoration of Myanmar’s democracy on Monday after the military staged a coup, arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians.
A military takeover in the country was announced on the day Myanmar’s Parliament was to convene with new members sworn in following November elections.
The military has claimed the election was tainted by fraud but an election board rejected those claims as lacking evidence.
Myanmar’s military announced it will hold a new election at the end of a one-year state of emergency. The announcement on military-controlled Myawaddy TV came after an earlier declaration that because national stability was in jeopardy, all government functions would be transferred to military chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing under a provision in the 2008 constitution that was issued under military rule.
From all across the globe came calls for democracy to be restored.
The United States “will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
She added that the US opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of the November elections, which handed Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) an overwhelming landslide, but sparked allegations of vote irregularities by the routed military-backed party.
Newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also called on Myanmar’s military “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.”
Before the coup, Washington, alongside several other Western nations, had urged the military to “adhere to democratic norms” in a January 29 statement that came as the commander-in-chief threatened to revoke the country’s constitution.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the coup and Suu Kyi’s imprisonment.
“The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released,” he tweeted.
China, which regularly opposes UN intervention in Myanmar, called for all sides to “resolve differences.”
“China is a friendly neighbor of Myanmar and hopes the various parties in Myanmar will appropriately resolve their differences under the constitutional and legal framework to protect political and social stability,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly” condemned the military’s detention of Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders.
“These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
Japan joined the calls urged Myanmar’s military to free Suu Kyi and to restore democracy.
“We request the release of stakeholders including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi who was detained today,” Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement urging “the national army to quickly restore the democratic political system in Myanmar.”
European Council President Charles Michel strongly condemned the coup.
“The outcome of the elections has to be respected and democratic process needs to be restored,” the former Belgian prime minister tweeted.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated his country’s opposition to any attempt to alter the election results and urged all parties to adhere to democratic norms.
He was backed by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who said, “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.”
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement it had noted “with deep concern” the developments in Myanmar.
“India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld,” the statement said.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “grave concern about the latest situation in Myanmar,” adding hopes that all parties would “exercise restraint.”
Indonesia’s foreign minister likewise expressed “concern” while also urging “self-restraint.”
But Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the situation is an “internal matter.”
“Our primary concern is the safety of our people,” he said. “Our armed forces are on standby in case we need to airlift them as well as navy ships to repatriate them if necessary.”
Norway condemned the coup in tweet, with its foreign ministry tweeting, “We urge military leaders to adhere to democratic norms and respect the outcome of the elections.”
However, Bob Rae, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, appeared to defend the developments, tweeting that Myanmar’s military “wrote the Constitution this way so they could do this.”
“The Constitution of 2008 was specifically designed to ensure military power was deeply entrenched and protected,” he said.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the safety of the figures being detained.
“The military’s actions show utter disdain for the democratic elections held in November and the right of Myanmar’s people to choose their own government,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director.
Amnesty International noted that violence and extrajudicial killings had marked past coups and urged Myanmar’s armed forces to exercise restraint.
“The concurrent arrests of prominent political activists and human rights defenders sends a chilling message that the military authorities will not tolerate any dissent,” Amnesty International said.
The takeover is a sharp reversal of the partial yet significant progress toward democracy Myanmar made in recent years following five decades of military rule and international isolation that began in 1962. It would also be a shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, who had led the democracy struggle despite years under house arrest and and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.