According to junta-controlled media, junta officials extended the emergency in Myanmar by six months on Wednesday, the second anniversary of their ousting of the civilian government in a coup, citing persistent resistance to army rule.
The announcement of the National Defense and Security Council's decision to grant junta leader Min Aung Hlaing's request to extend emergency rule for a fifth six-month term came as scores of cities in the country of 54 million people, including Yangon, Mandalay, Naypyidaw, Monywa, and others, remained empty as residents participated in a five-hour "silent strike" to protest the unpopular coup. Similar demonstrations were conducted on the anniversary of the coup and other dates.
Despite a junta's warning that participants and instigators would be imprisoned, prosecuted, and have their houses and property seized, transportation and business were halted. Activists have frequently been subjected to torture and murder during military arrests.
The Yangon Strike Force's Nan Lin stated, "Today's silent strike demonstrates that the people have not lost their hearts, nor will they allow a gang of these thugs to rule the country."
"The people are aware of their moves and political stunts and are not persuaded by them, and they will never comply with their rules," he told Radio Free Asia.
According to the report, junta authorities cited the "extraordinary situation" produced by rebellion against the military administration as the reason for thwarting plans to organize general elections this year. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, promised to hold multiparty elections. However, opponents have deemed the poll a fraud since it appears to be rigged to exclude parties expelled by the coup on February 1, 2021, and maintain junta leaders in control.
Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup that ousted and imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy government approximately two months after their landslide election victory, blamed "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 the People's Defense Forces that have fought the junta.
Young Yangon resident Maung Sa told RFA's Burmese service, "The silent strikes demonstrated the people's opposition to everything the military is doing and the illegitimate election that they hoped would improve their standing."
Civilian parties have rejected the proposed poll due to the recent introduction of onerous registration and financial requirements that skew the playing field in favour of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The military proxy party lost severely in the two previous parliamentary elections to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. Their unverified claim of voter fraud in the 2020 election precipitated the coup. Wednesday, Min Aung Hlaing reiterated his claim of voter fraud.
"Myanmar's junta is attempting to establish a veneer of credibility by holding 'elections,'" said Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The international community should not be duped or pressured into recognizing this sham."
'He wants to be president.'
Than Soe Naing, a Myanmarese political expert, told RFA that junta leader Min Aung Hlaing would do whatever it took to remain in power.
"His pledge to bring Myanmar on the path of democracy is a cover narrative. He stated that he desires to be president.
"He desires the presidency for himself. But the international community will not recognize the election, except Russia and China," stated Than Soe Naing, referring to Beijing and Moscow's continued backing for the junta.
Kyaw Zaw, a spokesman for the National Unity Government, stated, "Giving Min Aung Hlaing another six months of power for an emergency indicates that they did not succeed in the coup and have no control over the country."
On the second anniversary, the U.S. and its allies imposed further sanctions against the military regime as a symbol of escalating international condemnation of the junta.
The Treasury Department stated that the United States placed sanctions on the Union Election Commission, mining enterprises, energy authorities, and other regime-affiliated entities. Canada, Australia, Britain, and Canada all introduced comparable measures.
U.S. State Department counsellor Derek Chollet stated that Washington's objective is to "foster conditions that end the current crisis, but more importantly, return Burma to the path of inclusive, representative multiparty democracy."
"Any election that the regime may hold... has no chance of being free or fair, given that the regime has imprisoned or intimidated nearly all significant potential candidates and does not control nearly half of the country's territory," he told reporters.
Chollet stated, "We have seen...that sanctions have had some effect on the junta,"
Myanmar's economy dropped by about 20 per cent last year. Investors are fleeing, foreign currency reserves are depleting, and it is getting more difficult for the regime to obtain weaponry, even though arms continue to flow into the country," he continued.
Falling currency, worsening corruption
The value of the country's currency, the kyat, has decreased by 50 per cent in the two years leading up to December 2022, according to a World Bank analysis released on Monday.
"The livelihood of the populace is getting increasingly challenging. If this trend continues, the economy will continue to fall, and the country's predicament will worsen, said a Myanmarese economist who sought anonymity for safety reasons.
A top anti-corruption monitor identified additional ramifications from the coup.
Myanmar has dropped 17 places on Transparency International's most recent Corruption Perceptions Index, surpassing Cambodia as Southeast Asia's most corrupt nation for the first time in a decade and trailing only North Korea for clean administration in Asia.
Despite all the adverse developments, the chairman of a pro-military think tank told RFA that the situation is improving.
Thein Tun Oo, the executive director of Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, which is comprised of retired military personnel, stated, "In conclusion, we are moving toward a more stable situation, and it's almost certain that the election will occur."
Opponents of the junta, the latest iteration of military governments that had ruled Myanmar for more than 50 of the country's 75 years since gaining independence from British colonial rule, asserted that the coup had damaged the country's embryonic democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of speech.
Tun Aung Kyaw, a prominent official of the Arakan National Party, which represents the interests of the Rakhine ethnic minority in western Myanmar, stated, "As political parties, we cannot go into the public and organize or spread political awareness among the people."
"The current situation is vastly different from that of the previous government," he told RFA.
Sai Laik, general secretary of the Shan National League for Democracy in northern Myanmar, stated, "We established political parties to create a political environment for the development of our democracy, but these parties themselves are struggling."
"When military operations have replaced the politics of the parties as they have right now, you can say that their role and political activities have become virtually nonexistent," he told RFA.
Targeting the opposition
But the National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, bore the brunt of regime atrocities.
Kyaw Htwe, an executive of the National League for Democracy, stated, "The main reason for the military coup is the military dictator's power-madness and greed to control all sectors of the country forever, regardless of the people's needs and interests."
According to the human rights research department of the National League for Democracy, junta troops have killed at least 84 party members and officials and imprisoned at least 1,232 others since the coup in February 2021. Sixteen individuals perished under interrogation, eight in prison, one through execution, and 59 "for no reason."
According to jail sources, Suu Kyi, 77, was sentenced to an additional seven years after 2022 on five counts of alleged corruption, bringing the total number of years she must serve in detention to 33 on 24 counts.
Human rights organizations say that 2,900 people have been killed and 17,500 arrested.
At least 67 massacres with four or more victims were conducted by the military junta in 2022, resulting in the deaths of 646 individuals, including women, children, and the elderly.
The civilian deaths resulted from airstrikes, summary executions following arrests, live victim burnings, and sliced throats by soldiers. As a result of conflict between junta forces and local militias, government soldiers or proxy armies committed several atrocities against people. Countless communities have been burnt by marauding junta troops, which have even turned helicopter or fighter jet weapons on schools and slaughtered residents.
"Only losers cry."
Residents of Tambaya township in the Sagaing region remained steadfast despite the recent burning of 5,000 houses by junta soldiers. Sagaing, located in northwestern Myanmar, has been the epicentre of conflict against military control, resulting in massacres and widespread arson.
A female villager stated, "You can tell them that we are proud to be associated with the rebels because they are fighting against injustice." "They can burn down our homes, but not our will. Only losers weep, but not I. I will not allow them to prevail," she told RFA.
The country inhabitants the size of France are battling rising commodity costs, power outages, transportation issues, crime, and anarchy.
"The junta's crimes of knowingly murdering and brutally torturing innocent civilians, as well as burning their villages, cannot be considered mere human rights violations," said Aung Myo Min, the shadow human rights minister of the National Unity Government.
This level of international crime must be prevented and punished by all nations.