State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi called on the public not to accept the coup and turn out to protest the military’s power grab.
A statement from the National League for Democracy attributed to Aung San Suu Kyi called on the public to “react strongly” in a letter signed by a spokesman just after noon today.
“The military’s actions are ignoring the catastrophe now facing the people and an attempt to reintegrate the country into a military dictatorship,” it said. “Therefore, I urge the people to react strongly against the military coup. Only the people are important.”
She along with President Win Myint were taken into military custody this morning.
It noted that the party, which won the November election in a landslide, had abided by the military-drafted constitution and calling on the public to “react strongly.”
At the bottom, a handwritten note signed by spokesman Win Htein read: “I swear by my life that the above petition to the people is directly from Aung San Suu Kyi.”
Social media has been inundated with speculation presented without evidence that the message was fake or made under duress.
NLD party elder Win Htein told the BBC that people should take to the streets to protest peacefully.
“Due to their actions today, the government is no longer recognized,” the 79-year-old former political prisoner said. “Parliament is no longer recognized. Since then, the 2008 constitution has been completely repealed.”
Speaking from his home and suggesting his arrest might be imminent, Win Htein suggested the coup was for the benefit of a wealthy few generals, including Min Aung Hlaing, the supreme military commander installed as head of state this morning.
“Everyone knows that Min Aung Hlaing and his family are very rich in this country,” he added. “The leaders of the Tatmadaw also know it. Therefore, if the military leaders continue to support such people, it will go from being a military the people did not initially support to being one that the people hate.”
On the heels of condemnations from the U.S. secretary of state and others, EU Ambassador Kristian Schmidt, who was ambassador to Myanmar until September, noted that election fraud was “a baseless excuse.”
“Great concern for the safety and freedom of #Myanmar’s democrats,” he wrote. “’Election fraud’ is a baseless excuse. The Constitution has been violated. General Min Aung Hlaing should retire – in pursuit of purely personal interest he has now taken civilian government and 54 Million hostage.”
Great concern for the safety and freedom of #Myanmar’s democrats. “Election fraud” is a baseless excuse. The Constitution has been violated. General Min Aung Hlaing should retire – in pursuit of purely personal interest he has now taken civilian government and 54 Million hostage.
— Kristian Schmidt (@EUAmbSchmidt) February 1, 2021,
Telecommunications remain limited and it was not known if any protests had been initiated since the military said it seized power this morning.
Meanwhile, military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, who now claims to be head of government after the arrests of top civilian officials this morning, put out a statement that the military will cede power after overseeing a new election next year.
It said the new election would be staged after the end of the yearlong state of emergency declared this morning.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the arrests of Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint this morning along with the military’s attempt to seize all powers for itself.
“These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar,” he said in a statement.
He called for the military to respect the outcome of the November election and work toward compromise. The military, or tatmadaw, refused to accept the election outcome – its proxy party placed a dismal second – and claimed it was fraudulent.
The Myanmar Banking Association announced that all private banks under its purview would close indefinitely today due to the unavailability of financial services, and the disruption of internet communications.
The letter said it would notify private banks to reopen once systems were up and running again.
Ed. Note: This story was updated to reflect social media speculation that the message posted to the NLD Chair page was illegitimate. The statement has not been retracted, and no evidence of its inauthenticity has been presented as yet.