US Denounces Myanmar Junta’s Extension of Emergency Rule

(Bloomberg) -- The US has condemned Myanmar’s move to extend a state of emergency for another six months, two years after seizing power in a coup, and said it will continue to work with allies to deny the regime international credibility.

Most Read from Bloomberg

“The United States strongly opposes the Burma military regime’s decision to extend the state of emergency, prolonging the military’s illegitimate rule and the suffering it inflicts upon the country,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, using Myanmar’s former name.

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing hinted the emergency rule could be extended even further in a briefing broadcast on state TV Wednesday, effectively delaying elections the junta had promised to hold by August.

“Given that the current situation is not normal, it should be extended at least once for a term of six months. The situation of the state will be presented again after six months,” Min Aung Hlaing said.

The junta leader also said 40% of townships are facing instability, an admission of the intensity of the conflict across the country, where the regime has suffered large territorial losses to ethnic armed groups and opposition fighters. International experts have said the military has firm control over far less than what it claims.

The regime had been expected to hand over power to a transitional government under its control after the expiry of the emergency rule at the end of January, but a court ruled the extension was in line with the 2008 constitution. The announcement came as a silent strike was held to mark two years since the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown.

The military also faced more pressure on the eve of the coup anniversary, this time from the US and its allies, the UK, Canada and Australia. They imposed fresh sanctions on Myanmar targeting junta members, energy officials and other individuals and companies linked to the regime.

Since the coup, the military has used increasingly brutal tactics to subdue its enemies, including the first executions in three decades. The economy has also suffered, with the World Bank continuing to see “severely weakened” growth prospects.

More than 2,900 people have been killed and thousands more arrested in the military crackdown that followed the takeover. A rare United Nations Security Council resolution in December called for an end to violence and the release of all political prisoners.

“I express serious concern about the further extension of the state of emergency by the current Myanmar ‘regime,’ without taking positive steps towards achieving political progress,” Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a statement released Wednesday. “The use of violence is causing a large number of casualties, despite repeated calls for restraint by the international community, including Japan.”

As a preliminary step in the electoral process, the military-appointed election body Tuesday urged political parties to register under a 20-page law outlining complicated and rigorous rules. The new regulations will likely prevent Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy from taking part in any ballot. The party won the 2020 election by a landslide, despite the junta’s claim of voter fraud, which was dismissed by observers.

“In staging a coup, the military misread our people,” the shadow National Unity Government, which is aligned with Suu Kyi, said in a statement released Wednesday. “Our people are determined to build a Myanmar free of the military dictatorship which has oppressed our country for generations.”

--With assistance from Jon Herskovitz.

(Updates with reaction and details throughout.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.