RANGOUN | Aung San Suu Kyi’s party called on Tuesday for the immediate “release” of the leader, in the aftermath of a coup in Burma condemned by the international community, Washington raising the threat of sanctions before a meeting. emergency of the UN Security Council.
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The coup was bloodless, but soldiers were still deployed in the capital Naypyidaw, where Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, and other leaders of his party, the National League for Democracy, were arrested. Monday at dawn.
Soldiers also surrounded the buildings where parliamentarians reside, with an LND deputy describing to AFP an “open-air detention center”. However, parliamentarians said they were allowed to go out after dark on Tuesday.
According to this MP, who requested anonymity, Aung San Suu Kyi and the President of the Republic, Win Myint are “under house arrest” in the capital.
A spokesperson for her party said no direct contact had yet been made with her, but neighbors saw her walking in the garden of her official residence surrounded by walls.
“She is walking to let people know that she is in good health,” Kyi Toe told AFP.
The NLD called on Facebook for the immediate “release” of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner and other movement leaders, denouncing a “stain in the history of the state and Tatmadaw”, the Burmese army. The latter must “recognize the result” of the November elections, added the party.
Contesting the validity of this ballot, won overwhelmingly by the NLD, the military declared a state of emergency on Monday for one year, putting an end to a democratic parenthesis of 10 years.
Horns and Pans
Twenty-four hours after the putsch, languages were struggling to loosen for fear of reprisals in a country that has lived, since its independence in 1948, under the yoke of military dictatorship for nearly 50 years.
“We are afraid to criticize openly, even if we do not like what is happening,” said Maung Zaw, who runs a small meat stall while a taxi driver says he is “worried and scared”.
Nonetheless, on Tuesday evening, in the Yangon shopping district, residents honked their horns and banged on pots and pans to protest the coup. Some chanted: “Long live mother Suu”.
No sign of a significant military presence was visible in the city, economic capital of more than 5 million inhabitants, proof of the confidence of the military in their hold on the country, according to observers.
Telephone connections and internet access, which had been very disturbed the day before, were working again, the banks were reopened, but the international airport remained closed.
The markets and streets, generally lively despite the coronavirus pandemic, were however quieter than usual.
Sensing events, Aung San Suu Kyi had prepared a message in anticipation, urging the Burmese to “not accept the coup”.
Young Burmese have announced on social networks a campaign of “civil disobedience”, but it has not yet materialized in the streets.
The army’s coup also has its supporters: hundreds of promilitary supporters gathered around the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, waving the country’s flag.
The military vowed to hold new “free and fair” elections once the one-year state of emergency is lifted, but the Burmese were pessimistic.
“They dared to carry out a coup d’état in the midst of a pandemic. They can afford anything, ”said the taxi driver.
The generals were in any case silent in the face of strong condemnations from abroad.
US President Joe Biden called on the international community to “speak with one voice to demand that the Burmese army immediately surrender power”, with the UN and the European Union unanimously condemning the coup.
Conversely, Beijing refused to criticize anyone, simply asking all parties to “resolve the differences.”
An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council is due to take place on Tuesday.
The head of the army Min Aung Hlaing, who now concentrates most of the powers, is an outcast for the Western capitals because of the bloody repression carried out by the military against the Rohingya Muslim minority, a tragedy which is worth to Burma of ‘be accused of “genocide” before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the UN.
Aung San Suu Kyi, much criticized internationally for her passivity in this crisis which has led hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to take refuge in Bangladesh, remains however adored in her country.
Long in exile, “the lady of Rangoon” returned to Burma in 1988, becoming the figure of the opposition to the military dictatorship. She spent 15 years under house arrest before being released by the military in 2010.
In 2015, the LND had obtained a large majority and the ex-dissident had been forced into a delicate sharing of power with the still very powerful army.
Despite the Rohingya crisis, the West “must respect” the outcome of the November legislative elections, which it won hands down, said Derek Mitchell, former US ambassador to Burma. “It is not the person, it is the democratic process” that is at stake.