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February 3, 2021

Hundreds of Myanmar MPs under house arrest

 
February 3, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of members of Myanmar’s Parliament were under house arrest Tuesday, confined to their government housing complex and guarded by soldiers a day after the military seized power in a coup and detained senior politicians including the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

One of the detained lawmakers said he and about 400 others spent a sleepless night, worried they might be taken away, but were otherwise OK. They were able to speak with one another inside the compound and communicate to the outside by phone, but were not allowed to leave the housing complex in Naypyitaw, the capital, international media reported. He said Suu Kyi was not being held with them. “We had to stay awake and be alert,” the lawmaker was quoted as saying. He said police were inside the complex, where members of Suu Kyi’s party and various smaller parties were being held, and soldiers were outside it.

The coup came the morning lawmakers had gathered in the capital for the opening of a new parliamentary session. The military said the seizure was necessary in part because the government had not acted on the military’s claims of fraud in November’s elections — in which Suu Kyi’s ruling party won a majority of the parliamentary seats up for grabs — and claimed the takeover was legal under the constitution. But the move was widely condemned abroad.

The coup highlights the extent to which the generals have ultimately maintained control in Myanmar, despite more than a decade of talk about democratic reforms. Western countries had greeted the move toward democracy enthusiastically, removing sanctions they had in place for years. The takeover now presents a test for the international community. US President Joe Biden called the military’s actions “a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law” and threatened new sanctions.