Myanmar’s military junta plans probe of last year’s election

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Myanmar Military; Burma

Myanmar’s new leader has said the military government installed after Monday’s coup plans to investigate alleged fraud in last year’s elections and will prioritise the pandemic and the economy.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing announced the moves on Tuesday at the first meeting of his new government in the capital Naypyitaw, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

His comments came hours before the foreign secretaries of the G7 nations – which includes the UK, US and France – issued a joint statement condemning the coup.

Their statement said: “We are deeply concerned by the detention of political leaders and civil society activists, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and targeting of the media.

“We call upon the military to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically-elected government, to release all those unjustly detained and to respect human rights and the rule of law.”

Myanmar’s military had said one of its reasons for ousting the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi was because it failed to properly investigate its allegations of alleged widespread electoral irregularities.

Four days before the military takeover, the country’s Union Election Commission had declared there were no significant problems with the vote.

The military has announced it will hold power under a state of emergency for a year, and then hold elections whose winner will take over government.

In the November 2020 election, Ms Suu Kyi’s party captured 396 out of 476 seats contested in the lower and upper houses of Parliament. The main opposition party, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, won only 33 seats.

The military, known as the Tatmadaw, is automatically allocated 25% of the seats in the combined houses under the 2008 Constitution that came into effect under a previous military government.

The state newspaper reported General Min Aung Hlaing told Cabinet members that a new Union Election Commission, with what he described as independent and unbiased personnel, “would examine the voting data to find correct results, and actions would be taken accordingly in the process”.

He said voter lists would be scrutinised against family household registrations.

General Min Aung Hlaing also said Covid-19 containment measures taken by Ms Suu Kyi’s government would be continued. Myanmar has confirmed more than 140,600 cases including some 3,100 deaths. Its health care infrastructure is one of the weakest in Asia, according to UN surveys.

The general also urged measures to boost the economy, especially the agricultural sector upon which 70% of the country’s population depend.

Ms Suu Kyi and other senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party serving in government remain under detention after being rounded up on Monday, as do an unknown number of lower-ranking officials and political activists around the country.

The NLD has called for non-violent resistance to the military takeover.

On Tuesday night, scores of people in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, honked car horns and banged on pots and pans Tuesday in a noise protest called by activists. They included shouts wishing Ms Suu Kyi good health and calling for freedom.

Supporters of the military have also staged demonstrations, attracting as many as 3,000 people to a Tuesday rally.

The takeover presents a test for the international community.

Before the statement from the G7’s foreign ministers, US President Joe Biden called the military’s actions “a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law” and threatened new sanctions. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday but took no action.

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