Myanmar’s military seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained along with other leaders of her party in early morning raids.
Western nations condemned the sudden turn of events, which derailed years of efforts to establish democracy in the poverty-stricken country and raised even more questions over the prospect of returning a million Rohingya refugees.
The army said it had responded to “election fraud”, handing power to military chief General Min Aung Hlaing and imposing a state of emergency for a year in the country.
Summarising a meeting of the new junta, the military said Min Aung Hlaing, who had been nearing retirement, had pledged to practice a “genuine discipline-flourishing multiparty democratic system”.
He promised a free and fair election and a handover of power to the winning party, it said, without giving a timeframe.
The junta later removed 24 ministers and named 11 replacements to oversee ministries including finance, defence, foreign affairs and interior.
Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other NLD leaders were “taken” in the early hours of the morning, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said at least 45 people had been detained.
Troops and riot police stood by in Yangon where residents rushed to markets to stock up on supplies and others lined up at ATMs to withdraw cash. Banks suspended services but said they would reopen from Tuesday.
Foreign companies from Japanese retail giant Aeon to South Korean trading firm POSCO International and Norway’s Telenor scrambled to reach staff in Myanmar and assess the turmoil.
Multinationals moved into the country after Suu Kyi’s party established the first civilian government in half a century in 2015.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s election win followed decades of house arrest and struggle against the military, which had seized power in a 1962 coup and stamped out all dissent for decades.