The leader of the military junta proclaims himself prime minister and promises elections in August 2023, amid a serious human, health and political crisis
Six months have passed since the Burmese Army, the Tatmadaw, carried out the coup that ended the attempts at democratic transition in Myanmar , which began in 2011. On February 1, the military forces seized power in the nation. from Southeast Asia, thus settling their disagreement with the November 8 electoral victory of the de facto head of government, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD, for its acronym in English). To the serious political crisis that has been unleashed since then, is added the one caused by the accelerated spread of covid-19 since the beginning of July in the country, a situation aggravated by the shortage of doctors and medical supplies.
The leader of the military junta that has controlled the former Burma since the riot, Min Aung Hlaing, announced in a one-hour televised speech on Sunday that he will take over as prime minister of a new interim government replacing the State Administration Council, the which he has presided over since the coup. The general reiterated his promise to hold “free, fair and multi-party elections” when the state of emergency ends, which will run until August 2023. If so, Myanmar will have been controlled by the military for two and a half years instead of one, as stated in February.
During his speech, Min Aung Hlaing also took the opportunity to blame opponents of the coup junta for being responsible for the recent spike in covid-19 infections and promoting the misinformation of the people by spreading false news about government policies to contain the pandemic outbreak. through social networks, a campaign that he labeled a “weapon of bioterrorism.”
Since February 2, a tidal wave of demonstrations calling for the release of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner has flooded the streets of the nation’s main cities in defiance of violent repression by the military. The Association for the Protection of Political Prisoners estimates that 5,474 people are in detention and 945 have been killed by security forces, a mess that has plunged Myanmar into great instability and deteriorated its security and socio-economic environment. The latest figures from the World Bank do not invite optimism, but rather do envision a future marked by a panorama of uncertainty similar to that of the present: the Burmese economy will contract more than 18% in 2021.
Added to the political storm that has hit the country since the beginning of the year is a terrible humanitarian crisis worsened by the mismanagement of the pandemic during a third wave of infections much more lethal than the previous ones. A large part of the members of the Civil Disobedience Movement are health workers who have left their posts in protest against the junta and have been victims of arbitrary detentions . Myanmar’s health system, controlled by the military, is consequently under extreme pressure from the ravages caused by the new coronavirus – especially the delta variant – and the lack of personnel and medical supplies, mainly oxygen.
The American Johns Hopkins University estimates that the Asian nation registers more than 302,600 accumulated infections and more than 9,700 deaths, but health experts affirm that the figures are much higher due to the scarcity of tests and that the sick are not counted than the hospitals are forced to refuse.
The latest report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Food Program estimates that 3.4 million people could be food insecure due to the economic slowdown between April and September. Furthermore, the United Nations Development Program estimates that nearly half of Myanmar’s 55 million people could be plunged into poverty early next year. The loss of jobs, the rise in the price of food and fuel, and the lack of remittances, a crucial source of income for Burmese households, have had a strong impact on the purchasing power of hundreds of thousands of families, many of whom they have had no choice but to move .
While its unpopularity continues to grow, the Tatmadaw, in an attempt to legitimize itself, insists that the overthrow of the de facto leader on February 1 is covered by Article 417 of the Constitution, which authorizes the armed forces to seize power. if they consider the unity of the State in serious danger. The excuse for making the coup plan a reality was then the alleged rigged reelection of Suu Kyi, which resulted in a landslide victory for the NLD with 87% of the 476 seats in Parliament in the second elections held in the era of democratic transition. The 76-year-old Nobel laureate is under house arrest and is charged with seven crimes. Among the charges against him is that of corruption, which carries penalties of up to 15 years, and that of violating the law on official secrets, which carries a maximum of 14.
In June, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that “calls upon all member states to prevent the influx of arms into Myanmar”, which was supported by 119 countries, with 36 abstention (including Russia, China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and a single vote against Belarus.