A military coup took place in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar early Monday morning.
The country’s military forces took control of the country, declared a state of emergency, and detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, among other politicians. The army said they carried out the coup in response to supposed “election fraud” they claim occurred in last November’s election, in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in an overwhelming fashion.
Military chief Min Aung Hlaing assumed power and imposed a state of emergency for one year, according to a statement released via a military-owned television station. He was sanctioned by the United States in December 2019 for his role in the human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya Muslim community.
On Monday morning, people in Myanmar woke up to widespread internet and communications outages and closed banks, with soldiers patrolling the streets of the country’s largest city, Yangon. On television, all but the military-owned Myawaddy television channel were seemingly blocked.
The coup took place hours before the first session of the new parliament was set to begin, following weeks of tension after the election in which the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won only 33 out of a possible 476 seats.
In a statement, Aung Hlaing's office said additional elections will take place after the election commission has been "re-constituted" and voter lists have been investigated.
"A free and fair multiparty general election will be held and then, state responsibilities will be handed over to the winning party meeting norms and standards of democracy," the statement said.
Despite the claims, Myanmar's election commission has rejected the military's claims of voter fraud.
The U.S., among other countries, denounced the military takeover.
President Biden said Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention, among others, is “a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.”
“In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” the president said in a Monday statement. “For almost a decade, the people of Burma have been steadily working to establish elections, civilian governance, and the peaceful transfer of power. That progress should be respected.”
Biden warned that the reversal of “progress toward democracy” will lead to “an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities. Followed by appropriate action.”
November’s election was only the second democratic vote Myanmar has held since the country emerged from decades of isolationist military rule in 2011.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement on Monday calling the coup "horrifying, completely unacceptable, and obviously a saddening step backwards for Burma’s slow and instead democratic transition.”
He called on the military to “release the civilian political leaders of the country and turn back from this abyss” while also urging the Biden administration and foreign nations to “take a strong stand” against “this authoritarian assault on democracy.”