Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP Group
BANGKOK – Six months after taking power from the elected government, Myanmar’s military leader declared himself prime minister on Sunday and said he would lead the country under the extended state of emergency until elections are held in about two years.
“We must create the conditions to hold a free and fair multi-party general election,” General Min Aung Hlaing said during a speech recorded on television. “We have to make preparations. I promise to hold the multiparty general elections without fail.”
He said the state of emergency will reach its goals in August 2023. In a separate announcement, the military government named itself “the interim government” and Min Aung Hlaing the prime minister.
A state of emergency was declared when troops mobilized against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, an action that, according to the generals, was permitted by the 2008 military-authored constitution. The army claimed that its landslide victory in last year’s national elections was achieved through massive electoral fraud, but did not offer credible evidence.
The military government officially annulled the election results last Tuesday and appointed a new electoral commission to take over the ballot box.
The military takeover was met with massive public protests that have resulted in a lethal crackdown by security forces, who routinely fire live ammunition into the crowd. As of Sunday, authorities have killed 939 people since Feb. 1, according to a tally kept by the independent Political Prisoner Assistance Association. Casualties are also increasing among the military and police as armed resistance grows in both urban and rural areas.
Movements by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to mediate a dialogue between the military government and its opponents have stalled after an agreement at an April summit in Jakarta to appoint a special envoy for Myanmar.
Min Aung Hlaing said that among the three nominees, Thailand’s former Deputy Foreign Minister Virasakdi Futrakul was selected as the envoy.
“But for various reasons, new proposals were launched and we were unable to move any further. I would like to say that Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including dialogue with the ASEAN special envoy in Myanmar. “, He said. saying. ASEAN foreign ministers were expected to discuss Myanmar in virtual meetings this week hosted by Brunei, the current president of the 10-nation bloc. Myanmar is also struggling with its worst COVID-19 outbreak that has overwhelmed its already crippled health care system. Limitations on oxygen sales have led to widespread allegations that the military is directing supplies to government supporters and hospitals run by military.
At the same time, medical workers have been targeted by the authorities after leading a civil disobedience movement that urged professionals and public officials not to cooperate with the government.
Min Aung Hlaing blamed public mistrust of the military’s efforts to control the outbreak of “fake news and misinformation via social media,” and accused those behind using COVID-19 “as a bioterrorism tool. “.
This story originally appeared in the Morning edition Live blog.