The United Nations Security Council called for the release of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained by the military as diplomatic and financial pressure grew on the generals who seized power this week to restore democracy.
U.S. President Joe Biden said the military should step down as the administration considered slapping sanctions on the generals responsible for Monday’s coup in the Southeast Asian country.
Streets in the commercial capital Yangon echoed again overnight with the clanging of tin pots as people denounced the military takeover, while teachers became the latest to join a widening campaign of civil disobedience.
“We only support the elected government and we will always stand with them,” university lecturer Nwe Thazin said. “We absolutely don’t accept the government which took power by force.”
Myanmar’s long and troubled transition to democracy was derailed on Monday when army commander Min Aung Hlaing took power, citing alleged irregularities in a November election that Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide. The electoral commission has said the vote was fair.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council released a statement late on Thursday stressing the “need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”
Language in the statement was softer than the original draft by Britain and made no mention of a coup – apparently to win support from China and Russia, which have traditionally shielded Myanmar from significant council action. China also has large economic interests in Myanmar and ties to the military.
China’s U.N. mission said Beijing hoped the key messages in the statement “could be heeded by all sides and lead to a positive outcome” in Myanmar.
Reuters was not immediately able to reach the Myanmar government for comment.
Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, 75, has not been seen since her arrest in morning raids on Monday. Police have filed charges against her for illegally importing and using six walkie-talkie radios found at her home.
Biden said the United States was working with allies and partners to address the generals’ takeover.
“There can be no doubt in a democracy force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” he said.
The White House said national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke by phone with ambassadors from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-member bloc to which Myanmar – also known as Burma – belongs.
Sullivan earlier told a news briefing the Biden administration was looking at targeted sanctions on individuals and on entities controlled by the military.
The leaders of Malaysia and Indonesia said ASEAN foreign ministers would be asked to hold a special meeting to discuss the situation in Myanmar.
It is unclear how effective sanctions would be as Myanmar’s generals have few overseas interests that could be targeted.
The military does however have extensive interests in the domestic economy and could pay a price if foreign companies that have invested in the country over the past decade decide to pull out.
Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings said on Friday it is terminating its alliance with a top Myanmar conglomerate whose owners, according to the United Nations, include members of the military. Kirin said the coup had “shaken the very foundation of the partnership”.
Global financial institutions were also reviewing their positions. The International Monetary Fund, which transferred $350 million in coronavirus assistance to Myanmar just days before the coup, said it would be “guided by our membership” in deciding whether to recognise the new regime.
‘LIGHTS IN THE DARK’
Over 140 people have been detained since the coup, including activists, lawmakers and officials, Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said.
At least four people were arrested on Thursday, including a teenager who was banging a pot in what have become nightly acts of protest.
Doctors have helped spearhead a campaign of civil disobedience that has also been joined by some other government employees, students, teachers and youth groups. Some teachers and healthcare workers are not showing up at work, while others are doing essential tasks only.
The junta has blocked Facebook until Sunday to limit “fake news and misinformation”. Demand for VPNs surged over 4,000% as people sought to defeat the ban.
The junta has imposed a one-year state of emergency and promised to organise new elections at an unspecified date in the future.
Coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing told business leaders on Wednesday he could remain in charge for six months after the state of emergency ends.
In a show of defiance, about a dozen lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s party convened a symbolic parliamentary session on Thursday.
Suu Kyi spent about 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010 as she fought for democracy in a country that has been under military rule for most of the past six decades.
She remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of Muslim Rohingya refugees.