Around 70 MPs took an oath to serve their constituents despite the February 1 military coup, in a move that could escalate tensions with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s new regime.
Around 70 National League for Democracy MPs-elect in Nay Pyi Taw have taken the parliamentary oath of office this morning, insisting that they remain the country’s elected lawmakers despite the February 1 military coup.
Although Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has claimed all executive, legislative and judicial power in the wake of the coup, NLD lawmakers who took the oath at 8am this morning said he had seized power unlawfully.
“Since we are the lawfully elected legislators, we have the right to call a parliament session. Therefore we were sworn in this morning and took the people’s mandate back,” said Daw Phyu Phyu Thin, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Mingalar Taung Nyunt in Yangon.
“We said in our pledge that we would stand as lawmakers for the next five years. We want to say that no one can revoke the election results,” she said, adding that MPs from other states and regions would also be sworn in and sign a pledge to work for the people.
The move could dramatically escalate tensions between the NLD and the Tatmadaw, which has so far not embarked on mass arrests and released most of those detained in Monday’s coup.
However, the NLD is also under pressure to take a stronger position in response to the coup, which has so far prompted civil disobedience campaigns but few protests, in part due to a lack of leadership and direction.
U Kyaw Soe Lin, who won the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Pyigyitagon in Mandalay in the November election, said those elected in the November vote had a mandate from the people. “They [the military] try to block the parliament, but we are lawmakers elected legally through the votes of the people. We have been sworn in this morning, and we will work for the people as we pledged,” he said.
In its justification for the coup, the military has cited unsubstantiated allegations that the November election – which the NLD won in a landslide – was subject to massive voter fraud.
Although the Tatmadaw had been highly critical of the government and Union Election Commission since before the vote, tensions began to rise last week after a military spokesman refused to rule out a coup, and Min Aung Hlaing seemingly threatened to abolish the constitution (although the Tatmadaw later said this was a media misinterpretation, and that the military would uphold the charter).
The military made its move the day that newly elected lawmakers were to meet for the first time in Nay Pyi Taw to begin making key government and parliamentary appointments, including the speakers and the next president.
The Tatmadaw detained senior Union government officials, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and president U Win Myint, as well as state and regional officials and lawmakers in the early-morning operation. Both Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint are set to face criminal charges that could see them jailed for up to three years.
With President Win Myint sidelined, the military installed Vice President-1 U Myint Swe – a military appointee – as acting president, and he immediately handed over emergency powers to Min Aung Hlaing for a period of one year.
Lawmakers in Nay Pyi Taw were kept under effective house arrest at the municipal guesthouse until the afternoon of February 2. Although they had planned to stay until February 6, they were yesterday given just 24 hours to leave.
About half a dozen lawmakers remain at the guesthouse in defiance of the order, including Central Executive Committee member U Aung Kyi Nyunt. It is unclear why they have not yet left, but the authorities this evening cut the power and water to the area of the guesthouse in which they are staying.