Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s top leader, and the country’s president, Win Myint, were both detained in pre-dawn raids on Monday, Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy party said.
The Burmese military said it has taken control of the country for one year.
In response, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “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.”
“The democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added.
The UK condemns the state of emergency imposed in Myanmar & the unlawful detention of figures in the Civilian Government and civil society by the military. The democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened.
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) February 1, 2021
A spokesperson for the UK government urged the Burmese junta to “respect the rule of law and human rights, and release those unlawfully detained.”
“We need to see the peaceful reconvening of the National Assembly, respecting the results of the November 2020 general election and the expressed wishes of the people of Myanmar,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Anna Roberts, executive director of the Burma Campaign UK, said the Burmese junta must not be allowed to “get away with this coup.”
“Every tool available needs to be deployed to pressure the military,” she said. “The British government must now move quickly to sanction military companies, join the genocide case at the International Court of Justice, and build a coalition of countries willing to impose arms embargoes.”
Burma, also known as Myanmar, was a British colony before gaining independence in 1948 in the aftermath of World War Two.
The country was ruled by a military junta from 1962 to 2011. Suu Kyi, as a veteran opposition leader, was placed under house arrest for many years after the military refused to hand over power following the 1988 elections.
Under international pressure, the junta allowed a process of gradual democratisation to begin in 2010, leading to free elections in 2015 in which Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide.
She took office in 2016, but failed to resolve the tensions that remained between the government and military.