Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other ruling party officials were detained in an early Monday morning raid by the military, a spokesperson for her party told news outlets.
Hours later, Myanmar’s military announced in a television broadcast it had taken control of the country for a year, declaring a state of emergency, Reuters reported. Military chief Min Aung Hlaing was given power, and Myint Swe, a former general, will become the president, according to The Washington Post.
National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesperson Myo Nyunt told Reuters and CNN that Suu Kyi, Myanmar President Win Myint and other officials had been “taken” early Monday local time in the capital Naypyitaw.
“State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and some other senior figures are being detained in (the capital city of) Naypyidaw,” Myo Nyunt said, according to CNN, adding, “The military seems to take control of the capital now.”
The spokesperson told Reuters that he expected to be arrested himself and told the Post that Suu Kyi, Myint and all chief ministers of the party were taken at gunpoint.
Tensions have grown in Myanmar between the government and the military as the army has argued that recent elections, which delivered big wins for the NLD, were fraudulent. The army cited election fraud as reasoning for the detentions, despite the fact that the nation’s election commission have previously dismissed the claims of voter fraud.
The military had committed on Saturday to protecting and following the constitution after remarks from spokespeople earlier in the week raised concerns about a potential coup.
The country’s parliament was scheduled to start in Naypyitaw on Monday. The capital city’s phone lines were reportedly down, and the state-run MRTV television posted to Facebook saying it could not broadcast due to technical issues, according to Reuters.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the U.S. “is alarmed” by the reports on Suu Kyi’s detainment, adding that national security adviser Jake Sullivan has briefed President Biden on the matter.
“We continue to affirm our strong support for Burma’s democratic institutions and, in coordination with our regional partners, urge the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law, and to release those detained today,” she said in her statement.
“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,” Psaki continued. “We are monitoring the situation closely and stand with the people of Burma, who have already endured so much in their quest for democracy and peace.”
Last week, 16 international missions in Myanmar, including missions from the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union, released a statement calling the military “to adhere to democratic norms.”
“We oppose any attempt to alter the outcome of the elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition,” the statement read. “We support all those who work toward greater democratic freedoms, lasting peace, and inclusive prosperity for the people of Myanmar.”
Suu Kyi, the 75-year-old who previously won a Nobel Peace Prize, has served as Myanmar’s leader since 2015 after she spent almost two decades under house arrest as a former political prisoner. But her reputation was damaged after she faced accusations of genocide against the Muslim Rohingya population.
The United Nations’ International Court of Justice ordered Myanmar last week to protect its Rohingya population against the alleged genocide, The Associated Press reported.