Myanmar junta chief says new elections in two years

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s junta chief said yesterday that elections would be held and a state of emergency lifted by August 2023, extending the military’s initial timeline given when it deposed Aung San Suu Kyi six months ago.

The country has been in turmoil since the army ousted the civilian leader in February, launching a bloody crackdown on dissent that has killed more than 900 people according to a monitoring group.

A resurgent virus wave has also amplified havoc, with many hospitals empty of pro-democracy medical staff, and the World Bank has forecast the economy will contract by up to 18 per cent.

In a televised address junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said “we will accomplish the provisions of the state of emergency by August 2023”.

“I pledge to hold multiparty elections without fail,” he added.

Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. PHOTO: AP

The general’s announcement would place Myanmar in the military’s grip for nearly two and a half years – instead of the initial one-year timeline the army announced days after the coup.

The State Administration Council – as the junta calls itself – also announced in a separate statement that Min Aung Hlaing had been appointed as the prime minister of the “caretaker government”.

The army has justified its power grab by alleging massive fraud during 2020 elections won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide, and has threatened to dissolve the party.

Last week the junta cancelled the results of the polls, announcing it had uncovered over 11 million instances of voter fraud.

Suu Kyi has been detained since February 1 and faces an eclectic raft of charges, from flouting coronavirus restrictions to illegally importing walkie talkies, which could see her jailed for more than a decade.

Across Myanmar small groups of demonstrators marched yesterday, six months after soldiers launched their putsch with pre-dawn raids ending a decade-long experiment with democracy.