Junta will extend emergency rule to double down on repression: experts

The regime wants to legitimize brutal tactics it hopes will pave the way for elections.
By RFA Burmese
2023.07.25
Junta will extend emergency rule to double down on repression: experts Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing inspects the troops on the country's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, March 27, 2023.
AFP

Myanmar’s junta will extend a state of emergency in the country ahead of a deadline at the end of the month, experts said, in a bid to pave the way for an election through increased political repression and crackdowns on dissent.

The junta has announced three consecutive six-month extensions of emergency rule in Myanmar since the military seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat, citing ongoing instability in the country. The current period is set to expire on July 31.

Political analyst Ye Tun told RFA Burmese that the junta will announce a fourth extension this week in the hopes that it can crush the rebellion and legitimize its rule through an election.

“The [military junta] will be able to hold elections only if it can put an end to the resistance across the country,” he said.

“That’s why they will fight more fiercely to achieve their goals in the six-month extension term. If there are no other political changes to the situation, we can expect more armed clashes and more casualties.”

Opponents have dismissed the planned election as a sham because it appears rigged to exclude parties ousted by the coup and keep junta officials in power.

On July 13, junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing hinted at a possible extension of emergency rule during a meeting of the Tatmadaw, or Myanmar’s Armed Forces, in the capital Naypyidaw, calling for greater security in Sagaing region, as well as Chin and Kayah states. The three regions are centers of resistance to military rule and have seen an uptick in violence in recent months.

Junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun also recently told reporters that a decision on whether to extend the state of emergency would be made soon.

According to Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution, emergency rule can only be extended twice “in normal situations.”

In announcing the last extension on Jan. 31 this year, junta leaders cited the “extraordinary situation” created by resistance against the military regime for stymieing efforts to hold a general election.

At the time, Min Aung Hlaing, faulted "terrorist groups” formed by deposed lawmakers and officials – the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and the National Unity Government – as well as the numerous local militias known as People’s Defense Force, or PDF, that have fought the junta across Myanmar since 2021.

Min Aung Hlaing was the leader of the coup that ousted and jailed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy government about two months after their landslide election victory. 

‘No one can object’

Lawyer Kyee Myint told RFA that the junta will again extend the state of emergency by exploiting the constitution’s reference to “normal situations.”

“The [junta] appointed the heads of the Constitutional Court, not by [parliament] – that’s why they won’t care about whether what they are doing is in line with the constitution,” he said. “This is nothing new. It’s not in accordance with the constitution by any means.”

Members of the public who spoke to RFA Burmese about the likely extension seemed resigned over what they suggested was a forgone conclusion.

“The junta will extend the state of emergency period for another term, but the people’s defiance will remain unchanged,” said a resident of Sagaing, who declined to be named, citing security concerns. “The junta will extend it to make it appear as if they are needed [to maintain stability]. The country is in a situation where no one can object to this extension.”

ENG_BUR_SOEReax_07242023.2.jpg
Myanmar's military chief Min Aung Hlaing [center] makes a speech during a defense and security council meeting in Naypyidaw, Jan. 31, 2023. The junta said the country had "not returned to normalcy" almost two years after its coup and extended the state of emergency. Credit: Handout/Myanmar Military Information Team/AFP

After the last extension, the junta declared martial law in 40 townships in Sagaing, Magway,  Tanintharyi and Bago regions, as well as in Kayin, Chin and Kayah states. The military embarked on a brutal campaign against the armed resistance, but the resistance grew stronger.

Mone Tine, an official with the special operations unit of the Myaung Township PDF in Sagaing, told RFA that an extension of emergency rule would have little impact on anti-junta forces in his area.

“I expect [junta forces] will carry out more brutal acts in the future [with an extension],” he said. “But we are increasingly attacking them in some areas, rather than relying on a defensive strategy. If they extend the state of emergency again, it won’t affect our fight for control of our region."

Civilians bear the brunt

Military clearance operations have claimed the lives of civilians on a near daily basis in Myanmar.

According to Burma News International’s Myanmar Peace Monitor, which compiles data on military conflict in the country, at least 383 civilians were killed throughout the country during the latest extension of emergency rule, from Feb. 1 to July 15. Most were arrested and killed or died in military shelling and airstrikes.

Than Lwin Oo, a former lecturer at Yangon University’s Department of International Relations and Political Science who left his position to join the anti-junta Civil Disobedience Movement, warned that if the military regime cannot achieve its goal through repression, it may try to negotiate with the country’s ousted leadership.

“They first tried to find a political exit by holding an election, but it hasn’t worked and they are talking less about the election lately,” he said.

“The next attempt was that I heard that they mentioned a plan to hold a conference with the various ethnic groups … This is also its attempt to find a way out. If all else fails, the junta will try to reconcile with Aung San Suu Kyi.”

According to a July 15 statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly 2 million people have been displaced by armed conflict across Myanmar since the coup. Of those, nearly 800,000 people have been displaced in Sagaing region alone.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Matthew Reed.

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