Two years after taking power in a coup, Myanmar’s military leaders have extended the country’s state of emergency for another six months. Wednesday’s move is likely to delay elections the military government has promised to hold by August. State broadcaster MRTV said the National Defence and Security Council had granted Min Aung Hlaing’s request to prolong the state of emergency declared when the army overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government on February 1, 2021.
Myanmar’s military will “work to hold elections”, MRTV quoted Min Aung Hlaing as saying. “Our government will work to hold elections in every part of the country so as the people will not lose their democratic right.” He did not provide a timeline for the polls, which cannot be held during a state of emergency. Critics have said any elections are likely to be a sham aimed at allowing the military to retain power.
The military justified its February 1, 2021, power grab with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in elections that democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide. The state of emergency was due to expire at the end of January and the military had been widely expected to announce on Wednesday that it would prepare for the polls.
The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom announced a new round of sanctions on the anniversary, targeting members of the military government and government-backed entities. A senior US State Department official said on Wednesday that the US is deeply concerned about Russia’s supply of military equipment to Myanmar’s military government and will continue to seek ways to limit such cooperation between the two countries.
Australia also announced first-ever sanctions targeting 16 members of the military government responsible for egregious human rights abuses and two sprawling military-controlled conglomerates. The military government recently completed a series of closed-door trials against Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoning her longtime enemy for a total of 33 years.