Top Myanmar General Says Military Rule Will Continue Into 2023
Six months to the day after the Burmese army staged a coup and imposed a reign of terror on the country, junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday that the state of national emergency would be extended for two years.
The move, announced in a televised address, effectively ruled out any return to democracy before 2023 for Myanmar, which only last year was seen as a rare case in which an authoritarian regime had peacefully ceded some power to an elected government. . It also contradicted the generals’ assurances shortly after the coup that they were serious about restoring political freedoms.
Later Sunday, the state administration council, as the junta calls itself, announced the formation of a new interim government with General Min Aung Hlaing as prime minister.
“From the start, we knew they would break their promises and get the political environment they wanted,” said Ko Aung Thu, a leader of the national resistance to the coup. “If they extend the state of emergency until August 2023, we must continue to protest until they somehow fall.”
Since the February 1 coup, at least 940 people have died at the hands of Burmese security forces, according to a tally kept by a watchdog group that closely follows the killings. More than 5,400 people are in detention, including all of Myanmar’s elected senior leaders.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s 76-year-old civilian leader, has been charged with various crimes, including sedition, which could keep her in jail for the rest of her life. His National League for Democracy party, which won two overwhelming public terms in the short period the military shared power with civilians, has been ordered to disband.
Myanmar is also being devoured by the coronavirus, a health disaster that has been exacerbated by the stubbornness of the junta. The military monopolized the supply of oxygen, blocked vaccinations and prevented life-saving treatments from those who opposed its regime.
A private oxygen trade has been made illegal. Bodies are piling up in crematoriums, witnesses said, even as national health authorities, under the junta’s control, report a surprisingly low death toll every day. Officially, Myanmar reported 4,725 coronavirus cases and 392 deaths on Saturday.
Last week, the military announced on its television channel that it was building a crematorium capable of burning up to 3,000 bodies a day.
Among those who died from Covid-19 is U Nyan Win, one of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s closest confidants and her party spokesperson, who was jailed after the coup. The virus has ravaged Myanmar’s prison population; in one of its most notorious prisons, Insein, political detainees staged a demonstration on July 23, which soldiers quickly put down with force.
In his speech on Sunday, General Min Aung Hlaing, dressed in civilian clothes rather than his military uniform, expressed concern about the pandemic. “Nothing other than individual life is of critical importance,” he said. “This is my policy.
The junta, however, virtually halted a vaccination campaign and reserved injections for its soldiers. In contrast, some armed ethnic groups in Myanmar who have fought the army for decades have carried out massive vaccinations in the territory they control.
Representatives of some of these ethnic groups joined with members of Myanmar’s elected government, as well as civil society leaders, to form what they call the government of national unity, which operates underground.
Despite a climate of fear created by military repression and the raging virus, a nationwide protest movement continued for six months. Every day, across the country, people gather for protests, which often last a minute or two, before dispersing to stay ahead of the soldiers. Images of the flash protests are uploaded to social media, to continue resistance on a virtual battlefield.
Fearing the political fallout from operating in a country subject to financial sanctions imposed by Western countries due to the violence, a number of multinational companies have pulled out of Myanmar, including Norwegian mobile operator Telenor.
The US Embassy said on Sunday that the United States remains “firmly committed to supporting the people of Myanmar in their aspirations for a democratic and inclusive future,” saying it has shown “remarkable courage and convictionSince the coup.
General Min Aung Hlaing confirmed on Sunday that the military canceled the results of the national elections held in November, claiming that the National League for Democracy, which had largely defeated the army’s proxy party, had committed electoral fraud. He also reiterated his assurance that an election would one day be held again, although he gave no indication of the date.
“Collective solidarity among all national peoples can overcome the Covid pandemic,” the general said in his speech. “And building an authentic and disciplined multi-party democratic system will be successful.”
Protesters said they would persevere against the junta.
“As their crackdown on protesters intensifies, we must try to sever the link between them, those responsible for the violence and the soldiers who are their executors,” Aung Thu said.
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