Myanmar's military leader makes first national address since coup, vows free election

Myanmar's military leader makes first national address since coup, vows free election

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar military commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, attends a military
File photo of Myanmar military commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in February 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Lynn Bo Bo/Pool)

YANGON: Myanmar's junta leader on Monday (Feb 8) called on the public to prioritise facts and not feelings, and said an election would be held and power handed to the winning party, as anti-coup protests took place nationwide.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in his first address since a coup a week ago, said the junta was different to previous military governments. Suitable ministers were selected, he said, adding that foreign policy would remain unchanged and countries would be encouraged to invest in Myanmar.

He reiterated there were irregularities in last year's election that were ignored and said no organisation was above the law. He made no mention of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi, along with dozens of other members of her National League of Democracy party, were detained by the military last week, ending a decade of partial civilian rule and triggering international condemnation.

She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in police detention for investigation until Feb 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.

The military has 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.

READ: Tens of thousands protest in Myanmar against military coup

Some government workers have joined doctors and teachers in rallying to the call for civil disobedience and strikes.

"We request government staff from all departments not to attend work from Monday," said activist Min Ko Naing, a veteran of the 1988 demonstrations that brought Suu Kyi to prominence.

Martial law was declared in parts of Mandalay, the country's second largest city, on Monday after hundreds of thousands rallied across the country against the coup and the military issued a stern warning against further protests.

The orders cover seven townships in Mandalay, banning people from protesting or gathering in groups of more than five, and a curfew will run from 8pm until 4am, the general administration department said in a statement.

A similar declaration has been made in a township in Ayeyarwaddy further south and announcements concerning other localities are expected to trickle out tonight.

"This order is applied until further notice," one Mandalay township statement said.

"Some people ... are behaving in a worrying way that can harm the safety of public and law enforcement. Such behaviours can affect stability, safety of people, law enforcement, and peaceful existence of villages and could create riots, that's why this order bans gathering, speaking in public, protest by using vehicles, rallies," the statement said.

Source: Agencies/lk

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