CAMEROON – The United Nations on Monday called the Myanmar military’s election delay and extension of the state of emergency a move in the wrong direction from international calls for the restoration of democracy.
Six months after seizing power from the elected government, Myanmar’s military leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, declared himself prime minister Sunday and said he would lead the country during the extended emergency until elections are held in about two years.
“It’s not taking us in the right direction,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said when asked about the military’s announcement.
“It’s moving us further away from what we have been calling for, member states have been calling for, which is a return to democratic rule, a release of all … political prisoners, a halt on the violence and the crackdown,” he said.
The state of emergency was declared when troops moved against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, an action the generals said was permitted under the military-authored 2008 constitution. The military takeover was met with big public protests that has resulted in a lethal crackdown by security forces who routinely fire live ammunition into crowds.
The military government officially annulled the November 2020 election results on July 27 and appointed a new election commission to take charge of the polls. It claimed Suu Kyi’s landslide election victory was achieved through extensive voter fraud but offered no credible evidence.
A roadmap published by the military after the takeover had called for holding new elections in a year.
Hlaing said Sunday the state of emergency will achieve its objectives by August 2023 and pledged “to hold the multiparty general election without fail.”
Armed resistance to the military is growing in both urban and rural areas. As of Sunday, 939 people have been killed by the authorities since Feb. 1, according to a tally kept by the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, while casualties are also rising among the military and police.
The U.N. spokesman called the situation six months after the takeover “precarious” and worsening as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, with wider implications “threatening regional stability.”
“The protracted crisis has impacted humanitarian access to people in need, as well as education, health, and the fight against COVID-19,” Dujarric said. “It has also, of course, affected the basic rights of the people of Myanmar to express themselves and have a government that represents them.”
“For us, a unified international response remains paramount,” he said.
Moves by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to broker talks between the military government and its opponents have stalled after an agreement at an April summit in Jakarta. At the ASEAN summit, leaders issued a plan calling for a halt to violence, constructive dialogue, appointment of an ASEAN special envoy as mediator, humanitarian aid and the mediator’s visit to Myanmar.
ASEAN foreign ministers were expected to discuss Myanmar in virtual meetings this week hosted by Brunei, the current chair of the 10-nation bloc.
India’s U.N. ambassador, T.S. Tirumurti, the current Security Council president, told reporters Monday that the ministers are expected to discuss the selection of an ASEAN envoy. “I think we will have to give the ASEAN initiative a fair chance,” he said, adding that India hopes it will be “expedited.”
Tirumurti said the council will definitely take stock of the situation in “maybe a week or two to see where we go.”