Governments around the world condemn Myanmar’s military coup

Australia warned that Myanmar's military was "once again seeking to seize control" of the country.
Australia warned that Myanmar's military was "once again seeking to seize control" of the country. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON/SYDNEY (AFP, REUTERS) - The United States led governments around the world in calling for the restoration of Myanmar’s democracy on Monday (Feb 1) after the military staged a coup, arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday (Jan 31) said the US expressed "grave concern and alarm" over reports of the detention of government officials and civil society leaders. 

"We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on Nov 8," he said.

"The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development. The military must reverse these actions immediately."

Ms Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained early on Monday as part of an apparent coup, after their National League for Democracy won an election landslide.

Myanmar's polls in November were only the second democratic election the country has seen since it emerged from the 49-year grip of military rule in 2011.

The White House warned of a response from Washington.

"The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar’s democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed," White House spokesman Jen Psaki said in a statement, adding that President Joe Biden had been briefed on the situation.

The US "urges the military and all other parties to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law, and to release those detained today", she added.

In Australia, foreign minister Marise Payne warned that the Myanmar military was "once again seeking to seize control" of the country.

"We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully," Ms Payne said in a statement.

"We strongly support the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, consistent with the results of the November 2020 general election," she added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the military's move. 

"The Secretary-General strongly condemns the detention of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other political leaders on the eve of the opening session of Myanmar’s new Parliament," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

"These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar."

Amnesty International also called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi. 

"The arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, senior officials and other political figures is extremely alarming," said Ms Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns. 

"Reports of a telecommunications blackout pose a further threat to the population at such a volatile time – especially as Myanmar battles a pandemic, and as internal conflict against armed groups puts civilians at risk in several parts of the country. It is vital that full phone and Internet services be resumed immediately."

Singapore expressed "grave concern" over the political crisis in Myanmar and hoped the situation will return to normal as soon as possible.

Indonesia urged all parties in Myanmar to adhere to democratic principles and constitutional government. 

"Indonesia also underscores that all electoral differences be addressed in accordance with available legal mechanisms," the foreign ministry said in a statement, calling for self-restraint and for Myanmar to observe the principles of the charter of the regional grouping Asean.

Malaysia called on all parties in Myanmar to resolve any electoral disputes peacefully. 

"Malaysia supports the continuation of discussion among Myanmar’s leaders to avoid adverse consequences to the people and state of 
Myanmar, especially in the current, difficult Covid-19 pandemic situation," Malaysia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Malaysia's Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said the latest developments have undermined the tentative steps Myanmar has taken towards democracy.  

"With these latest actions by the military, the powers that be will surely pull the nation and people of Myanmar further backwards into the abyss of military dictatorship," he said, urging the military to immediately defend the democratic aspirations of the people.

He added Asean and the rest of the world must stand united and call for the immediate release of political leaders and the reinstatement of the rule of law in Myanmar.  

India's Ministry of External Affairs called for upholding the rule of law and democratic process.

"We have noted the developments in Myanmar with deep concern. India has always been steadfast in its support to the process of democratic transition in Myanmar. We believe that the rule of law and the democratic process must be upheld. We are monitoring the situation closely," it said.

China called for all parties to "resolve their differences".

"China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar and hopes the various parties in Myanmar will appropriately resolve their differences under the constitutional and legal framework to protect political and social stability," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press briefing.

Meanwhile, Japan said it currently has no plans to repatriate Japanese nationals from Myanmar, but it is watching the situation, a foreign ministry official said.

Japan and Myanmar have close ties, with Tokyo a major aid donor over the years and scores of firms engaged in business activities there.

There are an estimated 3,500 Japanese in the country, but because of the coronavirus pandemic the government had been advising citizens to put off travel there, said the official, who asked to remain unidentified, adding that there are no plans at this point to change that advisory.

“We are concerned about the state of emergency issued in Myanmar, which damages the democratic process, and call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others who were detained,” chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference. 

“The Japanese government has long been a strong supporter of the democratic process in Myanmar, and opposes any situation that reverses it.... Our nation strongly calls on the military to promptly restore democracy.”

There are an estimated 3,500 Japanese in Myanmar, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tokyo had been advising citizens to put off travel there, said a Foreign Ministry official, who asked to remain unidentified, adding there are no current plans to stiffen that advisory.

The Japanese embassy in Myanmar, in a message posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website, said while the situation in the country at this point did not appear to be one that would involve ordinary people, people should exercise caution. 

"We encourage people to stay inside and refrain from going out unless absolutely essential," it added. 

However, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines on Monday called the military takeover in neighbouring Myanmar an internal matter.

"It’s their internal affairs," Thailand's deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters when asked about the matter.

Long-time Cambodian leader Hun Sen referred to Myanmar’s military coup as "internal affairs" of the country and declined further comment. 

"Cambodia does not comment on the internal affairs of any country at all, either within the Asean framework or any other country," he said.

The Philippines is prioritising the safety of its citizens in Myanmar and sees events in the country as "an internal matter that we will not meddle with", the president’s spokesman Harry Roque said. 

"What’s important is the safety of our countrymen in Myanmar," Mr Roque told a briefing.

On Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the military’s seizure of power.

“I strongly condemn the coup in Myanmar,” Mrs von der Leyen wrote on Twitter, and called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all those detained.

“The legitimate civilian government must be restored, in line with the country’s constitution & the November elections,” she said. 

European Union chief Charles Michel , too, tweeted: “I strongly condemn the coup in Myanmar and call on the military to release all who have been unlawfully detained in raids across the country. The outcome of the elections has to be respected and democratic process needs to be restored."

In another tweet, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted that the “Myanmar people want democracy”.

"The EU stands with them,” he said.

Neither reaction specifically mentioned the arrest of Ms Suu Kyi.

However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also spoke out against the leader's arrest.

Mr Johnson tweeted: “I condemn the coup and unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in Myanmar. The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.”

Norway's Foreign Affairs Ministry also tweeted: " We condemn today’s developments in #Myanmar. We urge military leaders to adhere to democratic norms and respect the outcome of the elections."