Myanmar’s military junta has extended the country’s state of emergency by another six months, again delaying a general election it has promised to hold – though it remains unlikely to ever happen.
In a statement cited by the AFP news agency, the regime’s National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) agreed yesterday to the extension, which it said was necessary due to the security situation in the country.
“U Myint Swe, the acting president, announced the extension of the state of emergency for another six months… as the situation is not normal and to be able to continue the process of combatting terrorists,” the junta said in a statement.
The extension of the state of emergency – the fifth 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. Indeed, since the last extension of the state of emergency in August, the junta’s battlefield fortunes have deteriorated considerably.
Since late October, the Three Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic armed groups has overrun most of the military positions in northern Shan State, culmination in the capture of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, which was run by a military-aligned Border Guard Force, early last month. (Most of this group’s leaders, who are alleged to be involved in criminal activity, including online scamming, on an industrial scale, were this week handed over to Chinese custody). Similar gains have also taken place in the west of the country, where the Arakan Army has managed to take significant ground in Rakhine State, culminating in the capture of Paletwa township on the Indian border on January 15. Another Border Guard Force in Karen State has also announced that it will cease cooperation with the military administration.
According to a report in today’s edition of the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing spent much of yesterday’s NDSC meeting detailing the security challenges facing the regime, which included “widespread terrorist attacks” by resistance groups. He described the current situation as “unusual or exceptional” and that additional time was necessary to “ensure the normal situation in the country” and hold “free and fair multiparty elections across the nation.”
The military, however, is farther away from victory than at any point in the past three years, and it is hard to see how it will manage to turn things around in the space of six months. The idea that it can hold an election in the current circumstances, even a theatrical or tightly circumscribed one, is wildly optimistic. The situation is now such that the National Unity Government, which is spearheading the nationwide resistance to military rule, has started discussing what will follow the end of military rule.
As with the past two years, today’s anniversary been marked with statements of solidarity and condemnation from all quarters. In a joint statement issued yesterday, the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States said that the “condemn in the strongest possible terms the military regime’s ongoing atrocities and human rights violations.” The governments of the United States and Australia also imposed a new round of sanctions, while the European Union issued its own statement of condemnation.
A group of 461 local civil society groups also issued an open letter calling for greater international action to bring the military’s war on the civilian population to an end and protect vulnerable civilian populations. A similar statement was made by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) also issued statements marking the anniversary and calling for the outside world to formally recognize the NUG as Myanmar’s legitimate government. It also quoted Duwa Lahsi La, the NUG’s acting president, as urging the world to support the cause of a free Myanmar.
“There is still time for the international community – ASEAN, the U.N., our neighbours and other nations – to stand with us on the right side of history,” he said.