Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing has reiterated the military’s pledge to hold new elections, repeating the claim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 poll, in remarks published in state media a year after the generals seized power.
The armed forces chief did not give a specific date for the elections – he has previously suggested 2023 – but told a meeting of the National Defence and Security Council that they would take place when the situation was “peaceful and stable” and the state of emergency had ended, according to the report on the Global New Light of Myanmar.
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He repeated accusations of electoral fraud during the 2020 elections, which were won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide. The military used that claim as a pretext for removing Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021, and she now faces a raft of charges from corruption to violations of the official secrets act and electoral fraud.
The elections commission previously said there was no evidence of wrongdoing in the 2020 poll, but Min Aung Hlaing said the “scrutiny of the Tatmadaw”, as the military styles itself, had found “10,482,116 voting frauds (more than one-fourth of voters)”, according to the report.
The military has already restaffed the elections commission with its own appointees. The new chairman, Thein Soe, a former military man, was among officials sanctioned by the United Kingdom on Monday.
“In the 2020 multiparty general elections, relevant organizations and persons did not dare to solve the voting frauds,” the report said. “It caused the downtrend of trust for the implementation of the democracy, tarnishing the image of the State. So, action is being taken against those who harmed the election under the law.”
This was Sule Pagoda Road, shortly before the strike began this morning. pic.twitter.com/vwN4ivQvI3
— Ben Small (@benjaminsmall) February 1, 2022
Activists called on the public to stay indoors and close their businesses between 10am and 4pm on Tuesday. The streets of cities and towns subsequently emptied, in defiance of threats by the junta to bring major criminal charges against those who participate in the strike. pic.twitter.com/12RFmF3SYj
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) February 1, 2022
Min Aung Hlaing also accused the military’s opponents, including armed groups established by the National Unity Government of the elected politicians it overthrew, of “committing war crimes” in parts of the country where the United Nations, rights groups and witnesses have accused the armed forces of indiscriminate attacks.
The senior general said there had been some 9,437 “terror acts” since the coup, and more than 4,000 “terrorists” arrested.
The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, which has been tracked the military crackdown says more than 1,500 people have been killed in the past year, and nearly 12,000 people arrested.
United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged the international community to do more to end the bloodshed and restore civilian rule in Myanmar.
“It is time for an urgent, renewed effort to restore human rights and democracy in Myanmar and ensure that perpetrators of systemic human rights violations and abuses are held to account,” she said ahead of the coup anniversary.
The NUG and rights groups are also urging tougher action, reiterating calls for a global arms embargo.
Video and photos shared on social media showed many streets deserted as people in Myanmar marked the year of military rule with a six-hour “silent strike”. The event appeared to go ahead despite military threats to arrest anyone who took part.