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 deadline announced by the army a few days after taking power.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, as the military faces protests and strikes that crippled the administration and the economy. Security forces have killed more than 900 people in a crackdown on anti-coup protests and dissent, according to a local watchdog group, and there has been a resurgence of armed conflict in border areas.
The country is also grappling with a surge in COVID-19 infections, with many hospitals empty of medical staff amid the targeting of doctors and nurses who had led a civil disobedience movement that urged professionals and officials to do not cooperate with the military.
In his speech, Min Aung Hlaing said that the military authorities “must create the conditions for the holding of free and fair multiparty general elections”.
“We have to make preparations,” he said. “I pledge to organize without fail general multiparty elections. The army “will meet the provisions of the state of emergency by August 2023,” he added.
Also on Sunday, state media reported that Min Aung Hlaing had taken on the role of prime minister in a newly formed interim government, which will replace the state administration council set up by the generals soon after the government took office. power.
“In order to carry out the country’s tasks quickly, easily and efficiently, the state board has been reconstituted as the interim government of Myanmar,” said a state television presenter Myawaddy.
Tony Cheng of Al Jazeera, in a report from Bangkok in neighboring Thailand, said the powers the military granted itself under the state of emergency allowed him to overturn the November election results won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). landslide. The military justified its actions by claiming the vote was fraudulent, but provided no evidence. The electoral commission said the vote was free and fair.
“If new elections take place under these conditions, they will not be considered by anyone to be free or fair,” Cheng said.
Noting the continued resistance to military rule across Myanmar, Cheng added, “From the start, there were strong objections in the streets, from people all over the country. We have also seen the break-up of much of Burmese society, with many people joining a civil disobedience movement, which has made the banking system, health and transportation systems completely inefficient.
“This is especially important now that the fourth wave of COVID-19 has just swept through Myanmar. It put a lot of pressure on the military to be seen as doing something. “
‘Crimes against humanity’
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says the military has committed numerous abuses against civilians and crimes against humanity since the coup.
“We have seen widespread crackdowns across the country that seem coordinated and systematic,” Manny Maung, Myanmar researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. “Essentially, we have seen constant attacks on the civilian population that warrant investigation. “
The military also faces growing international censorship, with the United Nations General Assembly urging member states in June to “prevent the flow of arms” into Myanmar.
“We need to see more tightened and targeted, unified and coordinated sanctions,” said Manny Maung. “It means cutting off things like military access to revenue streams and money from extractive industries, especially gas revenue,” she added, calling on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution to formally impose an arms embargo.
“We want states to be prevented from selling more weapons than the military can then use against its own people. “
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional organization leading diplomatic efforts to address the crisis in Myanmar, reached a five-point consensus with Min Aung Hlaing in April, who calls for an end to the violence in the country. , the start of a dialogue between all parties, better humanitarian access to areas affected by the conflict and the appointment of a special envoy.
World powers including Russia, China and the United States have supported the plan, although the military has shown no intention of implementing it.
But Min Aung Hlaing on Sunday pledged to cooperate with ASEAN, saying: “Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the framework of ASEAN, including dialogue with the special envoy of ASEAN in Myanmar ”.
The group’s foreign ministers will hold a series of meetings from Monday, and diplomats say they want to finalize the appointment of a special envoy who will be responsible for ending the violence and promoting dialogue between the military and its members. opponents.
In Myanmar on Sunday, small groups of protesters marched to mark the passage of six months since the coup, with protesters in the northern town of Kale holding banners that read “force for revolution” and residents of Yangon, the country’s largest city, leaving flares on a march.