Myanmar military extends state of emergency, promises to vote within two years

Six months after seizing power from the democratically elected government, Myanmar’s military leader declared himself prime minister on Sunday and said he will lead the country in an extended state of emergency until elections are held about two years later.

“We must create conditions to hold free and fair multi-party elections,” Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said in a recorded televised speech. “We must be prepared. I promise that there will be a multi-party election.”

He said that the state of emergency will achieve its goal in August 2023. In another announcement, the military government referred to itself as the “caretaker government” and Min Aung Lai as the prime minister.

On February 1, the army declared a state of emergency when it took action against Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government. The generals stated that this action was permitted under the 2008 constitution formulated by the military. The military claimed that her overwhelming victory in last year’s national elections was obtained through large-scale voter fraud, but did not provide credible evidence.

The military government officially declared the election results invalid last Tuesday and appointed a new election committee to vote.

Public protest and repression

The military takeover was met with large-scale public protests that led to a deadly crackdown by security forces, who often fired live ammunition into the crowd.

According to statistics from the Independent Political Prisoners Aid Association, as of Sunday, 939 people have been killed by the authorities since February 1. With the intensification of armed resistance in urban and rural areas, the number of military and police casualties has also increased.

On July 29, during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, protesters held up three-finger salutes. The salute has been used as a symbol of resistance. (AFP/Getty Images)

After an agreement was reached at a summit meeting in Jakarta in April to appoint a special envoy for Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has stalled its efforts to facilitate dialogue between the military government and its opponents.

Min Aung Lai said that of the three nominees, Verasadi Futlakou, the former deputy foreign minister of Thailand, was selected as the special envoy. “But for various reasons, new proposals were released, and we cannot move on,” he said.

“I want to say that Myanmar is ready to carry out ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including dialogue with the ASEAN Special Envoy in Myanmar.”

The ASEAN foreign ministers are expected to discuss the Myanmar issue this week at a virtual meeting hosted by Brunei, the current chairman of the Group of Ten.

Myanmar is also struggling to deal with its worst COVID-19 outbreak, which has overwhelmed its already paralyzed healthcare system. The restrictions on oxygen sales have led to widespread allegations that the military is delivering supplies to government supporters and military-run hospitals.

On July 28, people wore masks to help contain the spread of COVID-19. They rode tricycles to deliver goods in Shwe Pyi Thar Town, Yangon. (Associated Press)

At the same time, after launching a civil disobedience movement to urge professionals and civil servants not to cooperate with the government, medical staff became the authorities’ targets.

Min Aung Hlaing blamed the public’s distrust of the military’s control of the epidemic on “fake news and misinformation on social networks” and accused those behind it of using COVID-19 as a “bioterrorism tool”.

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