Myanmar Junta Extends State of Emergency for Fourth Time

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Myanmar Junta Extends State of Emergency for Fourth Time

The extension is an admission that the military has failed to quell the broad-based armed resistance to its rule.

Myanmar Junta Extends State of Emergency for Fourth Time
Credit: Depositphotos

Myanmar’s military junta has extended its state of emergency by a further six months, once again delaying elections that it had vowed to hold by the end of the year.

The country’s National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), the junta’s top decision-making body, ordered the extension following a meeting yesterday in the capital Naypyidaw. According to the NDSC’s announcement of the extension, which was published in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar, it was necessary to postpone the election for a number of reasons, including “security affairs” and “the destructive actions of the terrorists” opposing its rule.

Over the next six months, the announcement stated, the military administration “needs to carry out the security measures in holding the election to be able to cast votes freely and fairly without fear,” the announcement stated. An accompanying report in the Global New Light of Myanmar paraphrased Gen. Soe Win, the deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as emphasizing the army’s “need to take a certain length of time to launch military and security operations for minimizing terror acts” and to “restore perpetual peace across the nation.”

Myanmar’s Constitution mandates that elections must be held within six months after the lifting of a state of emergency. This would push the junta’s elections back to July 2024 at the latest, but even this timeframe looks optimistic.

The extension of the state of emergency – the fourth since it was imposed following the military coup on February 1, 2021 – was a veiled admission that the armed forces do not exercise enough control to prepare for the elections that the junta intends as a transition back to a form of civilianized military rule.

It also speaks to its failures to quell the widespread opposition to military rule. Instead of a smooth transition back to military-dominated rule, the 2021 coup prompted widespread peaceful protests and the emergence of armed resistance, loosely coordinated by the opposition National Unity Government (NUG), which includes ethnic armed groups and civilian militias known as People’s Defense Forces.

According to the latest humanitarian update by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, dated July 15, nearly 1.9 million people in Myanmar have now been displaced, 1.6 million of them since the 2021 coup. The military has also burned an estimated 70,000 structures as it wages a campaign of terror against resistance groups and civilian populations believed to be harboring them. During this time, more than 3,800 civilians have been killed by junta troops, by the conservative estimate of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, and nearly 20,000 are in custody.

In this context, the holding of an election – even a rigged plebiscite designed to anoint the military’s chosen electoral avatar – seems far-fetched, bordering on fantastical. Large swathes of the country are now either under resistance control or contested enough that election preparations will be close to impossible, and it is hard to see this situation changing in another six months.

“The junta extended the state of emergency because the generals have a lust for power and don’t want to lose it,” Nay Phone Latt, a former lawmaker for the National League for Democracy who acts as an NUG spokesperson, told The Associated Press. “As for the revolutionary groups, we will continue to try to speed up our current revolutionary activities.”