As a dramatic military coup plunges Burma (Myanmar) into chaos – with troops patrolling the streets and a night-time curfew – a Burmese cardinal has urged for peace and calm.

In a statement sent to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon (Rangoon), addressed the people of Burma, and the international community, while the country is “journeying through the most challenging times of our history”.

Cardinal Bo said: “We have shed enough blood. Let not any more blood be shed in this land. Even at this most challenging moment, I believe that peace is the only way, peace is possible.

“There are always nonviolent ways for expressing our protests. The unfolding events are the result of a sad lack of dialogue and communication and disputing of diverse views.”

On Monday (1st February) the military seized power after detaining the elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The army’s TV station said power had been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing after the army alleged that NLD’s recent landslide victory was won by fraud.

Cardinal Bo said: “We have seen so much pain in conflicts. Seven decades of shedding blood and the use of violence brought no results. You all promised peace and genuine democracy.

“Democracy was the streak of hope for solving the problems of this once rich country. This time millions vote for democracy. Our people believe in peaceful transfer of power.”

A one-year state of emergency has been declared, a night-time curfew is in place and troops patrol the streets.

Cardinal Bo condemned the Burmese military, also known as the Tatmadaw.

He said: “Now the Tatmadaw has unilaterally taken over. This has shocked the world and the people of Myanmar.  Allegations of voting irregularities could have been solved by dialogue, in presence of neutral observers.

“A great opportunity was lost. Many leaders of the world have condemned – and will condemn – this shocking move… [The Burmese people’s] anguish and disappointment must be understood. Your actions need to prove that you love them, care for them.”

The international community has strongly criticised the coup, with US President Joe Biden raising the possibility of new sanctions – which Cardinal Bo is firmly against.

The Cardinal said: “History has painfully shown that abrupt conclusions and judgments ultimately do not benefit our people. Sanctions and condemnations brought few results, rather they closed doors and shut out dialogue.

“These hard measures have proved a great blessing to those super powers that eye our resources….Sanctions risk collapsing the economy, throwing millions into poverty. Engaging the actors in reconciliation is the only path.”