Myanmar coup: US ‘will take action’ if military does not reverse takeover

Suu Kyi and other politicians detained in what UN calls a ‘blow to democratic reforms’

Myanmar nationals in Japan hold up portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi and shout slogans during a protest held in front of the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA.

Myanmar nationals in Japan hold up portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi and shout slogans during a protest held in front of the United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. Photograph: Franck Robichon/EPA.

 

The United Nations led condemnation of Myanmar’s military on Monday after it seized power, calling for the release of elected leaders, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the developments were a “serious blow to democratic reforms” and urged all leaders to refrain from violence and respect human rights, a UN spokesman said.

The United States, Australia and Singapore expressed grave concern at the military’s declaration of a state of emergency and the detentions, which the army said it had carried out in response to “election fraud”.

“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 Nov. 8,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The White House said US president Joe Biden had been briefed on the detentions.

“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,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he “strongly” condemns the coup and the detention of political leaders. Mr Coveney has called for their immediate release.

“The elections of November 2020 were an important step in the democratic transition of Myanmar and clear expression of the desire of the Myanmar people for a democratic future.

“The actions taken last night move in the opposite direction and do nothing to tackle the public health, security or economic issues facing the people of Myanmar.”

Mr Coveney has advised Irish citizens living in Myanmar to “stay safe and avoid crowds or demonstrations. Citizens in Myanmar with concerns should contact the Embassy on +66 2 016 1360”.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he condemned the coup, saying Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders must be freed. “I condemn the coup and unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in Myanmar,” Johnson said on Twitter.

“The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.”

That was echoed by the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all those detained.

Switzerland’s foreign ministry also called for the release of those detained and, voicing support for “the aspirations of the people of Myanmar for democracy, freedom, peace and development”, it urged the military to reverse its actions.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called 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 had been detained.

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry urged all parties to exercise restraint and work towards a positive and peaceful outcome in comments that were echoed by Malaysia and Indonesia.

Hands-off

However, other fellow members of regional grouping, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), took a more hands off approach.

“It’s their internal affairs,” Thailand’s deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters when asked about the coup in the country’s northern neighbour. Cambodia and the Philippines made similar comments.

The detentions came after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the military after the November 8th election in which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) scored a landslide win.

The army on Monday handed power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing and imposed a state of emergency for one year, according to a statement on a military-owned television station. – Reuters