Myanmar’s military ruler promised multi-party elections and the lifting of the state of emergency by August 2023, which extended an initial timeline when he fired the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year.
The announcement by the general in a televised speech on Sunday, six months after the February 1 coup, would put Myanmar under military control for almost two and a half years – instead of the initial one-year timeline announced by the military has days after his seizure of power.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, with the military facing protests and attacks that have paralyzed the public and private sectors. According to a local monitoring group, security forces killed more than 900 people, while a resurgence of armed conflicts in the border countries exacerbated the situation.
An increase in COVID-19 infections has also exacerbated the devastation, with many hospitals empty of medical staff amid the target of doctors and nurses spearheading a civil disobedience movement urging professionals and government officials not to working with the military.
In his speech, Min Aung Hlaing said that the military authorities ‘must create conditions to hold a free and fair general election with multiple parties’.
“We have to make preparations,” he said. “I promise to hold the general election with multiple parties without delay.” The army would “reach the terms of the state of emergency by August 2023”, he added.
State media also reported on Sunday that Min Aung Hlaing had taken on the role of prime minister in a newly formed caretaker government. The general was the chairman of the State Administration Board formed just after the coup and which has governed Myanmar ever since, and the caretaker government will replace it.
“To carry out the country’s duties quickly, easily and efficiently, the State Administration Board has been reformed as the caretaker government of Myanmar,” a newsreader on state Myawaddy television said.
Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, who reported from Bangkok in neighboring Thailand, said the forces that provided the army in a state of emergency enabled him to determine the outcome of the November election that marked Aung San Suu Kyi’s national League for Democracy (NLD) has won, declaring a landslide null and void. The military justified its action by claiming that the vote was fraudulent, an allegation denied by the Electoral Commission.
“If new elections take place under these circumstances, no one will consider them free or fair,” Cheng said.
Cheng noted continued opposition to the rule of the army across Myanmar, adding: ‘From the beginning, there were strong objections on the street, from people across the country. We have also shattered a large part of Myanmar’s society, with many people joining a civil disobedience movement, which has rendered the banking system, healthcare and transportation systems completely inefficient.
‘This is particularly important now, as the fourth wave of COVID-19 has just blown over Myanmar. It put a lot of pressure on the military to see that they were doing something. ”
Manny Maung, Myanmar researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the rights group had determined that the military government had committed numerous abuses against civilians in the six months since the coup.
“We have seen widespread repression across the country that occurs in a coordinated and systematic manner,” Maung told Al Jazeera. “Essentially, we have seen a constant attack on the civilian population that justifies an investigation.”
The military is also facing increasing international criticism, while the UN General Assembly in June urged member states to prevent ‘the flow of arms’ to Myanmar.
“We need to see more stringent and targeted sanctions that are united and coordinated,” Maung said. “This means that military access to revenue streams and money coming from extraction industries, especially gas revenues, must be cut off,” she added, calling on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to formally impose an arms embargo. lie.
“We want to see states prevented from selling more weapons that the military can then use on its own people.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional bloc leading diplomatic efforts to tackle the crisis in Myanmar, agreed in April on a five-point consensus with Min Aung Hlaing, ending the violence in the country, the beginning of a dialogue between all parties, greater humanitarian access to areas affected by conflict, as well as the appointment of a special envoy.
World powers, including Russia, China and the United States, supported the plan, although the military had no intention of continuing it.
But Min Aung Hlaing promised on Sunday to work with ASEAN, saying: “Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including the dialogue with the ASEAN Special Sendy in Myanmar”.
The bloc’s foreign ministers are meeting on Monday, when diplomats say they plan to finalize a special envoy who will be tasked with ending violence and promoting dialogue between the military and its opponents.
In Myanmar, small groups of protesters marched on Sunday to mark six months since the coup, while protesters in the northern city held bare banners with the caption “strength for the revolution” and released people in the commercial capital, Yangon. flame during a march.