Myanmar’s military governor has promised multiparty elections and the lifting of the state of emergency from August 2023, extending an initial timetable given when he ousted the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year. .
The general’s announcement in a televised speech on Sunday, six months after the February 1 coup, put Myanmar under military control for nearly two and a half years – instead of the initial one-year calendar. army announced days after its takeover.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, with the army facing protests and strikes that have paralyzed the public and private sectors. In the ensuing crackdown, security forces have killed more than 900 people, according to a local surveillance group, while a resurgence of armed conflict in border villages has exacerbated the situation.
An influx of COVID-19 infections has also amplified the devastation, with several empty hospitals of medical staff amid the target of doctors and nurses who had led a civil disobedience movement urging professionals and officials not to cooperate with them. the army.
In his speech, Min Aung Hlaing said that military authorities “must create the conditions for a free and fair multiparty general election.”
“We’re going to do preparation,” he said. “I promise to hold the multiparty general elections without fail.” The military “will comply with the provisions of the state of emergency by August 2023,” he added.
Also Sunday, state media reported that Min Aung Hlaing had taken on the role of prime minister in a newly formed interim government. The general chaired the Council of State Administration which was formed immediately after the coup and which has managed Myanmar ever since, and the interim government will replace him.
“To carry out the country’s functions quickly, easily and effectively, the state administration council has been reformed as Myanmar’s interim government,” a press reader told Myawaddy state television.
Tony Cheng of Al Jazeera, reported from Bangkok in neighboring Thailand, said the powers the army has granted under the state of emergency have allowed it to overturn the results of the November elections that the Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide. The army justified its actions by saying the vote was fraudulent, an accusation denied by the election commission.
“If fresh elections are held in these conditions, they will not be seen by anyone as free or fair,” Cheng said.
Noting the continued resistance to the military government in Myanmar, Cheng added: “Since the beginning, there have been strong objections on the road, from people all over the country. We have also seen a large part of society collapse. Myanmar, with many people joining a civil disobedience movement, which has rendered the banking system, health systems and transport ineffective.
“This is particularly significant now that the fourth wave of COVID-19 is just crossing into Myanmar. This has put a lot of pressure on the military to be seen doing anything.”
Manny Maung, a Myanmar researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the rights group has determined that the military government has committed numerous abuses against civilians amounting to crimes against humanity in the six months since the blow.
“We have seen widespread repressions across the country that seem coordinated and systematic,” Maung told Al Jazeera. “Essentially, we have seen constant attacks on the civilian population that justify an investigation.”
The army is also facing growing international censorship, with the UN General Assembly in June urging member states to “prevent the flow of arms” into Myanmar.
“We need to see more advanced and targeted sanctions that are unified and coordinated,” Maung said. “This means cutting things like military access to revenue streams and money coming out of the extractive industry, particularly gas revenues,” he added, asking the UN Security Council a pass resolution to formally impose an arms embargo.
“We want to see states stop being prevented from selling other weapons that the military can then use on its own population.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional bloc leading diplomatic efforts to tackle the crisis in Myanmar, agreed to a five-point consensus with Min Aung Hlaing in April, calling for an end. of violence in the country, the start of a dialogue between all parties, greater humanitarian access to the areas affected by the conflict and the appointment of a special envoy.
World powers including Russia, China and the United States have supported the plan, although the military has shown no intention of following it.
But Min Aung Hlaing on Sunday pledged to cooperate with ASEAN, saying: “Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the framework of ASEAN including dialogue with the ASEAN Special Envoy in Myanmar.”
The bloc’s foreign ministers met Monday, when diplomats said they aimed to finalize a special envoy who would be tasked with ending the violence and promoting dialogue between the army and its opponents.
On Sunday in Myanmar, small groups of protesters marched to mark the six-month march since the coup, with protesters in the northern city of Kale holding flags saying “strength for revolution” and people in the commercial capital, Yangon, leaving flares at a march.