National Post (National Edition)
General repeats pledge for new vote
Myanmar's military leader said on Monday his junta would hold a new election and hand power to the winner as tens of thousands of people took to the streets for a third day to protest against the coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was speaking in a televised address, his first to the country since last Monday's military takeover. He did not say when the election would be held, but repeated claims that last November's poll, won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, had been fraudulent.
In the capital Naypyitaw, crowds of protesters chanted anti-coup slogans and told police they should serve the people not the military, according to media and a live feed of events.
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.
Demonstrations also took place in the commercial capital Yangon and elsewhere. Gatherings have so far been largely peaceful, unlike bloody crackdowns on previous protests, in 1988 and 2007 in particular, when hundreds were killed.
The U.S. Embassy said it had received reports that a curfew had been imposed in Yangon and Mandalay, the second-biggest city, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time.
The generals had already tried to justify their takeover on the grounds of election fraud — rejected by the election committee — and had promised a new poll.
Min Aung Hlaing reiterated that position in his address on Monday, saying the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy” different to previous eras of military rule.
The election committee must be reformed, he said. He accused it of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to prevent fair campaigning.
“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.
Upping the stakes in the crisis, state media had earlier signalled possible action against protesters.
“We, the whole people who value justice, freedom, equality, peace and safety, not only refuse to accept the lawless wrongdoers but also request that they be prevented and removed through cooperation,” the MRTV television station said in a comment that was later read out on a military-owned network.
Calls to join protests and to back a campaign of civil disobedience have grown louder and more organized since the coup, which drew widespread international condemnation.
While Western governments have condemned the coup, there has been little in the way of concrete action to press the generals.