BANGKOK (AP) — The leader of Myanmar’s military-installed government on Monday announced the extension of its mandate to rule for another six months in preparation for an election it has said will be held next year.
The army seized power on Feb. 1 last year from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. It cited alleged fraud in the November 2020 general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party had won in a landslide while the military-backed party did poorly.
Independent election observers said they found no evidence of substantive irregularities, and the army takeover was met with widespread non-violent protests around the country. Security forces used deadly force to disperse them, prompting armed resistance by the pro-democracy forces. The escalation of violence has since plunged Myanmar into what U.N. experts have described as a civil war.
Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the ruling State Administration Council, said in a broadcast speech Monday that the state of emergency declared after last year’s takeover was extended because time was needed to prepare for new elections, or as the official announcement of the extension said, “to continue working to return the country to the path of a peaceful and disciplined multiparty democratic system and to hold multiparty democratic general elections.”
The military originally declared that new polls would be held a year after its takeover, but later said they would take place in 2023. There is considerable doubt they will be free and fair, because most of the leaders of Suu Kyi’s party have been locked up, and there is a large chance the party itself will be dissolved by the pro-military courts.
Min Aung Hlaing said the military had tried its “utmost to discharge (its) responsibilities” since it seized power.
“However, terrorists based inside and outside the country and the people and organizations supporting them are committed to the utter devastation of Myanmar, instead of trying to nurture democracy in Myanmar,” he said.
While some opponents of military rule have employed tactics including assassinations and bombings, the military dubs almost all those opposing it as “terrorists.”
U.N. experts and rights groups are more critical of government repression, which is reliably reported to include arbitrary arrests and killings, torture, and military sweeps that include air attacks and the burning down of entire villages.
“To ensure that there is no unfairness, threats or coercion in the coming election, armed conflicts must cease,” said Min Aung Hlaing, in what appeared to be a reference to the government’s ongoing military operations, which are carried out against ethnic minority groups as well as pro-democracy forces and their supporters.
“To be able to hold the elections, we will accelerate the efforts by our public security system to stabilize the politics and security of the nation,” he said.