Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and key allies have been detained in an early morning raid, a spokesman for the ruling National League for Democracy said.
Spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone that Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been “taken” in the early hours of the morning.
Adding that he also expected to be detained, he said: “I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law.”
Tension had been rising between the civilian government and the military in Myanmar, with the army describing the recent election as fraudulent.
In November Ms Suu Kyi ‘s party offered to form a government of national unity after winning an overall majority in the election.
She had approached 39 ethnic minority parties to work with the NLD, which had trounced the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was backed by the military.
According to international observers the vote had gone smoothly without any major irregularities, although this was disputed by the opposition.
But polls in some parts of the country were cancelled for “security reasons”, leaving an estimated 1.5 million voters disenfranchised – including hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.
Tension had also been reported in Rakhine state in the west of the country, where clashes between the Rakhine militant group, the Arakan Army and the military is estimated to have displaced around 200,000 people
The party’s win represented a vindication for Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Laureate, who had endured a turbulent first term having restored democracy in a country which had been under military rule for nearly five decades.
The party’s spokesman at the time described the win as a “landslide” which had shown the Myanmar people still had faith in Ms Suu Kyi’s leadership.
After years under house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi’s release and electoral victory was hailed by human rights groups as bringing an end the military’s grip on the country.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, while still under house arrest.
Ma Suu Kyi was hailed as “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless”.
However her international reputation was severely dented by the country’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslims.
It saw the country accused of genocide, an accusation which has been strongly denied by Myanmar.
Over the weekend, Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian and analyst had warned that the dynamics since the November elections had brought “the three decades long contest” between the army and the ruling NLD to a “critical juncture” that would “unfold in new directions. No business as usual.”
He added: “With a pandemic, tens of millions poor, severe economic downturn, climate change, million plus refugees/IDPs, armed conflicts involving dozens of non-State armed groups, hundreds of militia: if there’s one country that really can’t afford a political crisis right now it’s Myanmar.”
As the news broke, Avinash Paliwal, associate professor in International Relations at SOAS tweeted: “One step side-ways, two steps back.
“These last 48-hrs have altered Myanmar’s political trajectory —it was never liberal democratic, even if elections took place— again. And I think this might the be end of Suu Kyi’s pol. journey (hopefully not life).”