Myanmar’s military, on Monday, imposed an 8.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. curfew across the country, hours after seizing power in a coup and imposing a year-long state of emergency.
The move came hours after soldiers arrested de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other senior members of the ruling party in pre-dawn raids, following days of escalating tensions.
Street vendors in the main city of Yangon scrambled to pack away their stalls as the curfew approached on Monday evening, Ben Small, a resident in the city, posted on Twitter.
The military has pledged the country will hold fresh elections in one year and uphold “discipline-flourishing democracy’’, according to an announcement by Myawaddy television, a military-owned broadcaster.
In a statement issued by her National League for Democracy (NLD) party after she was detained, Suu Kyi urged the people of Myanmar to resist the military.
“The public is urged to fully oppose the military coup and resoundingly resist against it,’’ she said.
Shortly after the dawn raids, internet and phone lines went down as soldiers appeared on the streets in major cities.
Communication channels have since been restored.
Army trucks were parked in front of City Hall in Yangon and troops were seen in the country’s capital, Naypyitaw.
The country had been gripped by fears of a coup for days amid escalating tensions between the military and the NLD, with the army refusing to rule out taking over and suggesting it could revoke the constitution.
Regional ministers were also among those detained, Wai Wai Nu, an activist from Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, said on Twitter.
The raids came just hours before a newly elected parliament was due to convene in Naypyitaw.
The military had called for a postponement of the new term after claiming to have uncovered potential widespread voter fraud during the general election in November.
Although, they did not provide any direct evidence.
Suu Kyi rejected the call for a delay and other requests during a high-level meeting with the military last week, according to ‘The Irrawaddy’ news website, which quoted an unnamed source.
Local election observers said in a statement last week that they found no major irregularities during November’s poll, which the NLD won by a landslide.
“The results of the elections were credible and reflected the will of the majority of voters,’’ the statement said.
Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said he feared for activists in the country.
“We are especially concerned for the safety and security of activists and other critics of the military who may have been taken into custody,’’ he said.
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Myanmar spent almost five decades under military rule before beginning a political transition in 2010 that saw many political prisoners freed and ushered in the partial civilian rule.
Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest and is a Nobel Peace laureate, was among those freed.
She came to power in the country’s freest election in decades in 2015 amid a wave of intense optimism sparking widespread hopes for a new democratic era.
She was barred from becoming president under a widely opposed 2008 constitution written by the military.
But she had been serving as state counsellor, a role akin to prime minister created to help her lead through a puppet president.
Countries around the world expressed deep concern in response to Monday’s coup.
In neighbouring Thailand, there were protests in support of the deposed civilian government.
UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, demanded the immediate release of dozens of political leaders, activists and journalists who had been detained.
In a statement, she urged “all states with influence to take steps to prevent the crumbling of the fragile democratic and human rights gains made by Myanmar during its transition from military rule’’.
U.S. President Joe Biden, on Monday, called the military’s seizure of power a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law’’.
Biden said the international community should come together “to press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized’’.
“The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy,’’ Biden said in a statement.
“The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.’’ (dpa/NAN)