Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a number of other ruling party officials were detained Monday, a spokesperson said.
Aung San Suu Kyi and Prime Minister Win Myint were taken early Monday, said the spokesman for the ruling party, National League for Democracy.
“I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law,” the spokesman, Myo Nyunt, said Monday, adding that he expected to be detained as well.
“As far as we know, all the important people have been arrested by the Burmese military,” he said. “So, now we can say it is coup d’état. In Naypyidaw, Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint has been arrested, I heard. But we are not sure about members of Parliament in municipality compound, but we can assume that they have been arrested too.”
The announcement comes as Myanmar’s military had dismissed rumors it would launch a coup. But tensions have been rising in the country since the ruling party declared a landslide victory in November elections, which was met with skepticism and claims of fraud by the military.
Myanmar’s newly elected Parliament was expected to convene for its first session in Naypyidaw on February 1.
On Wednesday, the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, told senior officers that the constitution, which outlaws a coup, could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced.
Over the past week, the military has deployed an unusually high number of tanks around the capital city, raising alarm among civilians and government officials.
BBC reporters said there are soldiers on the streets of both the capital and the largest city of Yangon and that telephone and internet lines to Naypyitaw were down.
A former British colony until 1948, Myanmar has been ruled by dictators backed by the military from 1962 to 2010.
An uprising in 1988 pushed for an election in 1990, which the National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide, but the elected members of Parliament were imprisoned, and the dictatorship continued.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero, General Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, had emerged as a leader in the pro-democracy rallies and in the NLD. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while under house arrest.
In 2010, Senior General Than Shwe announced the country would be handed over to the civilian leaders, who included retired generals. They freed political prisoners, including the lawmakers from the National League for Democracy, and Aung San Suu Kyi who was elected in 2012 bi-election and later became the State Counselor of Myanmar.
But Aung San Suu Kyi, while popular among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, has seen her international reputation decline over her government’s treatment of the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
In 2017, an Army crackdown against the Rohingya sparked by deadly attacks on police stations in Rakhine state led hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The International Criminal Court is investigating the country for crimes against humanity.