Top Myanmar junta leader promises multi-party polls
Myanmar’s military ruler has promised multi-party elections and the lifting of the state of emergency by August 2023, extending an initial timeline given when he deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government earlier this year.
The general’s announcement in a televised address on Sunday, six months after the February 1 coup, would place Myanmar under military control for nearly two and a half years – instead of the initial one-year timeline the army announced days after its power grab.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, with the military facing protests and strikes that have paralysed public and private sectors.
In the ensuing crackdown, security forces have killed more than 900 people, according to a local monitoring group, while a resurgence of armed conflicts in the borderlands has compounded the situation.
A surge in Covid-19 infections has also amplified the havoc, with many hospitals empty of medical staff amid the targeting of doctors and nurses who had spearheaded a civil disobedience movement that urged professionals and civil servants not to cooperate with the military.
In his speech, Min Aung Hlaing said the military authorities “must create conditions to hold a free and fair multiparty general election”.
“We have to make preparations,” he said. “I pledge to hold the multiparty general election without fail.”
The military would “accomplish the provisions of the state of emergency by August 2023”, he added.
Also on Sunday, state media reported Min Aung Hlaing had taken the role of prime minister in a newly formed caretaker government.
The general has chaired the State Administration Council that was formed just after the coup and that has run Myanmar since then, and the caretaker government will replace it.
“In order to perform the country’s duties fast, easily and effectively, the state administration council has been re-formed as caretaker government of Myanmar,” a newsreader on state Myawaddy television said.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok in neighbouring Thailand, said the powers the military has granted itself under the state of emergency have allowed it to annul the results of the November election that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide.
The military justified its actions by claiming the vote was fraudulent, an allegation denied by the election commission.
“If fresh elections take place under these conditions, they are not going to be seen by anybody as free or fair,” Cheng said.
Noting continued resistance to the military’s rule across Myanmar, Cheng added: “From the very onset, there have been strong objections on the street, from people all across the country.
We’ve also seen splintering of much of Myanmar’s society, with a lot of people joining up to a civil disobedience movement,” said Cheng.