A day after military coup in Myanmar, the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for her immediate release and the junta to recognise her victory in November elections.
The United States threatened to reimpose sanctions after Monday’s early morning coup in which Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and dozens of her allies were arrested.
Suu Kyi’s whereabouts are still unknown more than 24 hours after her arrest.
US President Joe Biden called the military coup a direct assault on Myanmar’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.
“We will work with our partners throughout the region and the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to hold accountable those responsible for overturning Burma’s democratic transition,” Biden said in a statement.
The coup followed a landslide win for National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 8 elections. The military, however, refused to accept the results on unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.
The army imposed a state of emergency for one year and handed power to its commander, General Min Aung Hlaing. The new junta removed 24 ministers and named 11 replacements for various portfolios, including finance, defence, foreign affairs and interior.
General Hlaing has promised that he will hand over power to winner after a free and fair election, but did not give a timeframe.
Meanwhile, the NLD’s executive committee demanded the release of all detainees “as soon as possible”. It also urged the military, through a message on Facebook, to acknowledge the election results and for the new parliament to be allowed to sit.
The parliament was due to meet on Monday for the first time since the election.
The streets were quiet overnight during a curfew already in place to check the spread of coronavirus. Army troops and riot police remained on roads in the capital, Naypyitaw, and the main commercial centre, Yangon.
But at dawn on Tuesday, phone and internet connections were restored. However, usually bustling markets were quiet and Yangon’s airport remained closed.
Banks in Yangon reopened after halting services on Monday due to connectivity problems and amid a rush to withdraw cash.
Citizens feared upheaval would further hurt an economy already reeling from the COVID-19 outbreak.
The coup marks the second time the military has refused to recognise a landslide election win for the NLD, having also rejected the result of 1990 polls that were meant to pave the way for multi-party government.
The 75-year-old Suu Kyi remained under house arrest for about 15 years between 1989 and 2010 as she led a democracy movement against the military, which has ruled for much of the past six decades.
Following mass protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007, the generals set a course for compromise, while never relinquishing ultimate control.
The NLD came to power after a 2015 election under a constitution that guarantees the military a major role in government, including several main ministries, and an effective veto on constitutional reform.
The military had been harsh on Rohingya Muslims and that had been a cause for concern for United Nations. A 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine State forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh.
About 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar, including 120,000 people who are languishing in camps.