Myanmar military leader vows to hold fresh polls as anti-coup protests escalate

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets, yet again, on Monday to protest against the coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, military leader in Myanmar, has said that his junta would “hold a new election and hand power to the winner”. He was speaking in a televised address, his first to the country since last Monday’s military takeover.

Aung Hlaing did not say when the poll would be held, but repeated claims that last November’s poll, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), had been fraudulent.

‘Serve the people not the military’

According to reports, crowds of protesters in the capital Naypyitaw chanted anti-coup slogans and told cops they should “serve the people not the military”. Police turned water cannon on protesters and warned that they might use live fire if the demonstrators did not disperse, but the protests ended without bloodshed.

The generals had tried to justify their takeover on the grounds of election fraud — rejected by the election committee — and had promised a new vote. Aung Hlaing reiterated that position on Monday and said the “junta would form a true and disciplined democracy”, different to previous eras of military rule.

‘A state of emergency will last 1 year’

He accused the election committee of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to prevent fair campaigning and said it must be reformed. “We will have a multiparty election and we will hand the power to the one who wins in that election, according to the rules of democracy,” he said. He gave no time frame but the junta has said a state of emergency will last one year.

Government workers, doctors and teachers are among those who have rallied to the call for civil disobedience and strikes. While Western governments have widely condemned the coup, there has been little in the way of concrete action to put pressure on the generals. In Myanmar, calls to join protests and to back a campaign of civil disobedience have grown louder and more organised.

(With inputs from agencies)

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