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- Junta extends state of emergency, says elections must be held
- ‘The current situation is unfolding under unusual circumstances,’ says acting president
- Deserted streets in some Myanmar towns for silent protest
- Protesters hold rallies in Thailand and the Philippines
Feb 1 (Reuters) – Myanmar’s junta has extended the country’s state of emergency for another six months, the interim president said at a leaders’ meeting broadcast on state television on Wednesday, as Protesters were marking the anniversary of the 2021 military coup with a “silent protest”.
.Junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, in a meeting on Tuesday with the military-backed National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), also said multiparty elections should be held “like the wishes the people”
.He did not provide a timetable for the polls, which cannot take place during a state of emergency. Critics said any election would likely be a sham aimed at allowing the military to retain power.
“Although according to article 425 of the constitution, (the state of emergency) can only be granted twice, the current situation is in unusual circumstances and it should be extended once more for six months” , said Acting President Myint Swe. said said during the meeting broadcast by MRTV.
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The Southeast Asian country’s top generals led a putsch in February 2021 after five years of tense power-sharing under a quasi-civilian political system created by the military.
Protesters and exiled civilian leaders vowed on Wednesday to end what they called the military’s “illegal takeover”. In Myanmar’s major cities, the streets emptied as people stayed home to protest, while hundreds of pro-democracy supporters attended rallies in Thailand and the Philippines.
The overthrow of the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi derailed a decade of reform, international engagement and economic growth, while leaving a trail of shattered lives in its wake.
Myanmar has been plunged into chaos since the coup, with a resistance movement battling the military on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on opponents saw Western sanctions reimposed.
In the main trading cities of Yangon and Mandalay, footage shared on social media showed deserted streets in what opponents of the coup called a “silent protest” against the junta. Democracy activists had urged people not to go out between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
There was also a rally in Yangon of about 100 army supporters, flanked by soldiers, showing photographs.
In Thailand, hundreds of anti-coup protesters staged a rally outside the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok.
“This year is decisive for us to completely uproot the military regime,” said Acchariya, a Buddhist monk attending the rally.
Others in the crowd chanted, “We are the people, we have the future” and “The revolution must win.”
Activists also staged a protest in the Philippine capital, Manila.
[1/5] A protester holds a photo of Aung San Suu Kyi as others give a three finger salute, during a protest to mark the second anniversary of Myanmar’s 2021 military coup, outside the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok , Thailand, February 1, 2023. REUTERS /Athit Perawongmetha
Vowing to continue supporting Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and threatening further sanctions against the junta, State Department adviser Derek Chollet told reporters, “We have seen another example of the resilience and diversity of Burmese civil society with the silent strike”.
ARMY-SUPPORTED COUNCIL STATEMENT
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The NDSC met on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Myanmar, including the actions of the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration formed by opponents, and the so-called People’s Defense Force fighting the army, state media reported.
“The country’s unusual circumstances in which they are trying to seize state power in an insurgent and terrorist way (have been discussed),” military media Myawaddy said on Tuesday.
Phone calls to a military spokesperson seeking comment went unanswered.
Myanmar’s military seized power after complaints of fraud in the November 2020 general election won by Suu Kyi’s party. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.
He declared a state of emergency for a year when he took power and has since extended it twice for six months, with the last phase expiring on Wednesday.
The constitution allows for two extensions, although some sections seem to give more flexibility on the issue.
The NUG issued a statement of defiance, stating that “together with ethnic allies, who have opposed the military for decades, we will end the illegal military takeover.
“The United States and its allies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, imposed new sanctions on Myanmar on Tuesday, with restrictions on energy officials and junta members, among others.
The junta has pledged to hold elections in August this year. State media recently announced tough requirements for parties to run, a move that critics say could sideline opponents of the military and cement its grip on politics.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was decimated by the coup, thousands of its members were arrested or imprisoned, including Suu Kyi, and many more went into hiding.
He described the election due this year as “fake” and said he would not recognize it. The election was also dismissed as a sham by Western governments.
In a phone briefing, Chollet reiterated the Biden administration’s position, saying “any election without the full participation of the Burmese people would represent a naked attempt by the junta to cling to power.
“Some 1.2 million people have been displaced and more than 70,000 have left the country, according to the UN, which has accused the army of war crimes and crimes against humanity.Reuters staff reports; Written by Ed Davies and Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Simon Cameron-Moore, Nick Macfie and Daniel Wallis
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