Myanmar: Military rule extended till 2023, protests continue

Senior general Min Aung Hlaing of Myanmar on Sunday extended the ruling military’s timeline by another two years, and stated that the armed forces would successfully accomplish the provisions of the state of emergency. He pledged to hold multi-party elections by August 2023.

This announcement has given rise to a new wave of pro-democracy protests against the junta in Myanmar (Burma), has been witnessing turbulence since its democratically elected leaders were ousted by the army in February and subsequently launched a crackdown on dissent.  

To make matters worse, a resurgent second COVID-19 wave has also wreaked havoc as members of the medical staff stopped working to protest the death of democracy. The general’s announcement which extends the state of emergency would place Myanmar in the military’s grip for nearly two and a half years — instead of the initial one-year timeline.

The junta, which calls itself he State Administration Council, announced in a separate statement that General Hlaing had been appointed as the prime minister of what they call “a caretaker government”.

The army, justifying the coup of February, alleged massive fraud during the 2020 elections which resulted in a victory for the National League of Democracy. The army announced last week that they had unearthed more than 11 million instances of voter fraud.  

Detained since February 1, NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces charges including flouting coronavirus restrictions and illegally importing walkie-talkies — which could see her jailed for more than a decade. On Sunday, various groups of protestors marched — from the southern coastal city of Dawei to jade-producing town Hpakant — to raise their voices for the return of democracy.

Protesters in the northern town of Kale held banners reading “strength for the revolution” while some others, set off flares at a march in the commercial capital Yangon. Large-scale protests are however no longer the norm owing to violent crackdowns and mass arrests by the army.

Pro-democracy medical workers were among the first to kick off a nationwide civil disobedience campaign despite COVID-19 were joined by tens of thousands of government workers — now work underground to provide telemedicine consultations to the ill.

A local monitoring group from Myanmar has reported that since February, more than 900 people have died in the protests for voicing their dissent.