A spokesman for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Myanmar announced the arrest of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s president, Win Myint and other senior party officials during the raid at dawn today.
The party spokesman called on the people of Myanmar to “not respond recklessly and act according to the law,” while Reuters reported that Internet networks and telephone services were disrupted in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, and soldiers were deployed near the city administration headquarters, hours after the ruling party leaders were arrested.
The official Myanmar TV also announced on its Facebook account that the broadcast could not continue due to what it said were “technical malfunctions.”
These developments come after days of escalating tension between the civilian government and the army, which raised fears of a military takeover of power in the wake of last November’s elections, in which the ruling party won by an overwhelming majority, but the army said it was fraudulent and marred by irregularities.
Earlier, the United Nations and Western embassies in Myanmar called on all parties to respect democracy.
These arrests came at a time when the House of Representatives, which emerged from the recent legislative elections, was scheduled to hold its first session within hours.
On Saturday, the army pledged to abide by the country’s constitution, in what observers considered a retreat from a previous threat to nullify it, alluded to by the army chief, which raised international fears of a military coup.
These concerns increased last Wednesday, after Army Chief General Min Aung Hling said that revoking the constitution passed in 2008 might be “necessary” under certain circumstances.
The army issued a statement Saturday in which it considered that it had misunderstood the statements of its commander, but did not clearly refute the possibility of an imminent coup.
The statement stated that “organizations and media outlets misinterpreted the speech of the army commander … without respecting the full text of the speech.” He added that the army “is committed to the applicable constitution (…) and will carry out its duties within the limits of the law and while preserving it.”
The country’s constitution was last repealed in 1988, when the army seized power after a popular uprising.
The army chief’s statements about the constitution raised the concerns of the embassies of more than 10 countries, in addition to the United Nations, while political parties in the country called for a settlement between Suu Kyi and the army.
The dispute led to the intervention of the highest spiritual authority of Buddhism in the country, as prominent monks in the official council of the religion issued a statement Friday evening calling for negotiations to be held “instead of the sharp arguments.”
The army is talking about 10 million cases of fraud in the elections that took place last November, and it wants to investigate the matter.
His demand was supported by supporters of the army, hundreds of whom gathered Saturday in front of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda near Yangon, to denounce the Election Commission, and were joined by national monks who carried banners rejecting “interference from foreign countries.”
Meanwhile, some neighborhoods in Yangon witnessed the distinctive red NLD flags being raised on the windows and the storefronts were decorated, in clear support of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.
On Thursday, the Commission denied the allegations of fraud and confirmed that the ballot was “free, fair and credible,” but acknowledged that there was a “gap” in the voter lists.