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Myanmar military removes 24 ministers, deputies in Suu Kyi's government, names 11 replacements


BANGKOK - Myanmar's ruling junta on Monday (Feb 1) announced a purge of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's government, removing 24 ministers and deputies and naming 11 replacements in its new administration after seizing power in a coup.

The announcement was made on the military-run Myawaddy Television and included new appointments in the portfolios for finance, health, information, foreign affairs, defence, borders and interior.

The move came hours after the military declared a one-year state of emergency and appointed a general as acting president after arresting civilian leader Suu Kyi and other senior officials.

The 75-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner urged her supporters to "protest against the coup" through a message on her party's Facebook page. She and other senior figures from the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) were arrested during an early morning raid on Monday – hours before the first session of the new Parliament was set to open.

The military said the arrests were carried out owing to allegations of election fraud and it has appointed former general Myint Swe as acting president. It also said it would hold a "free and fair general election" after the emergency is over. 

Those in Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon experienced widespread communications blackouts on Monday, while banks were closed and soldiers in army fatigues patrolled the streets.

Only the military-owned Myawaddy TV channel could be accessed on television, with all other news channels seemingly blocked, reported CNN.

The power grab by the military comes after it threatened last week to "take action" over alleged fraud in last November's election, which was won by the NLD in a landslide victory. The military-backed opposition party was routed in those polls, winning just 33 of the 476 seats. 

The NLD, led by Ms Suu Kyi, won 396 seats in the November election. 

The military said an emergency was needed to preserve the stability of the state and accused the country's Election Commission of failing to address "huge irregularities" in the November election.

"The UEC (Election Commission) failed to solve huge voter list irregularities in the multi-party general election which was held on Nov 8, 2020," said the statement signed by the new Acting President Myint Swe, who had been vice-president.

The statement accused "other party organisations" of "harming the stability of the state".

"As the situation must be resolved according to the law, a state of emergency is declared," it said, adding that responsibility for "legislation, administration and judiciary" had been handed over to military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.

In a statement on the NLD's Facebook page, Ms Suu Kyi urged her supporters not to accept the military's action.

In comments she wrote in anticipation of a coup, Ms Suu Kyi said the military's actions were an "attempt to bring the nation back under the military dictatorship without any care for the Covid-19 pandemic people are facing".

President Win Myint is among those detained, reported Reuters. Media said security forces also confined Members of Parliament to residential compounds.

Myanmar was ruled by the armed forces until 2011, when democratic reforms spearheaded by Ms Suu Kyi ended military rule.

Tensions have been escalating of late, with the military -– known in Myanmar as the Tatmadaw -– saying on Sunday it "finds the process of the 2020 election unacceptable".

Myanmar's Election Commission last week had labelled the vote transparent and fair. 

Hours after the state of emergency was declared, crowds flocked to supermarkets and automated teller machines across Yangon to stock up on groceries and withdraw money, with some anticipating a "possible curfew", one resident told The Straits Times. 

Another Yangon resident, Mr Aung Pyae Soe, said: "I am angry. The country was trying to get back on its feet. Business was not good because of Covid-19. When I think about the future, I don’t know what to do."

Published : February 02, 2021

By : Tan Tam Mei The Straits Times/ANN