Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Myanmar marks the anniversary of the coup, with all eyes on the junta's election plan

Myanmar marks coup anniversary with eyes on junta election plan


YANGON: To commemorate the second anniversary of the coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi's government, democracy activists in Myanmar called for nationwide business closures on Wednesday. The junta also hinted that it might extend a state of emergency and delay new elections.

On February 1, 2020, the military used unsubstantiated allegations of widespread fraud in the elections that Suu Kyi's party won by a landslide to justify its power grab.

On the anniversary, Western powers issued a new round of sanctions against the generals, but the previous rounds did not appear to derail the junta.

Images published by local media showed that on Wednesday, protesters in Yangon's commercial district hung banners on several bridges urging people to join the "revolution."

From 10 a.m. (0330 GMT) to 4 p.m., activists have asked people all over the country to shut down their businesses and avoid the streets.

An anonymous vendor in Yangon told AFP, "I made fewer snacks today and all are sold out now," citing fear of retaliation.

"Since the early hours, people have been rushing to buy. We don't want to miss the silent strike that will take place.

"Patriots, military lovers, monks, and the public" were scheduled to march through downtown Yangon in support of the military at a rally.

In the days leading up to the anniversary, the US embassy in the city has issued a warning about "increased anti-regime activity and violence."

At the end of January, a state of emergency imposed by the junta was set to end, and the constitution says that authorities must make plans to hold new elections.

It was widely anticipated that the military would announce on Wednesday that it would prepare for the elections.

However, the National Defence and Security Council, comprised of members of the junta, met on Tuesday to discuss the nation's situation and came to the conclusion that "has not returned to normalcy yet."

The council stated that Junta opponents had attempted to seize "state power by means of unrest and violence." These opponents included the anti-coup "People's Defence Forces" (PDF) and a shadow government led by lawmakers from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

It added that the "necessary announcement will be released" on Wednesday without providing any specifics.

On the anniversary, the United States, Canada, and Britain announced a new round of sanctions against junta members and junta-backed organizations.

Britain, Myanmar's former colonial power, targeted companies that supplied the military with aviation fuel and supported its "barbaric air raiding campaign in an attempt to maintain power."

Australia also announced its first sanctions against two sprawling, military-controlled conglomerates and 16 junta members "responsible for egregious human rights abuses."

The junta-approved election commission, which gave political parties two months to re-register last week as a sign that the military appeared to be planning new elections, was also the target of US sanctions.

However, analysts claim that people in many parts of the country are unlikely to vote because of the armed resistance that is raging. If they do, they could face retaliation.

Tuesday, a special envoy for the United Nations stated that elections administered by the military would "further violence, prolong the conflict, and make the return to democracy and stability more difficult."

A local monitoring group reports that the military's crackdown on dissent since it took power has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,900 people and the arrests of more than 18,000.

Rights groups have criticized the junta's recent closure of Suu Kyi's closed-court trials, which resulted in her being imprisoned for a total of 33 years.

Thet Naung, an activist in the northern Sagaing region, where the military and anti-coup fighters regularly clash, told AFP, "The main wish for 2023 is we want freedom and to go back home."

"We have encountered numerous challenges. We had lost everything and wanted to be content and live freely. The majority of our time has been spent in the jungle, and we have avoided cities."

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