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Myanmar Junta Prepares for Poll, Raising Fears of More Bloodshed

January 31, 2023, 12.20 PM

BANGKOK, - Two years after a coup snuffed out Myanmar's short-lived democratic experiment, the country's military is planning elections that analysts warn could spark further bloodshed as opposition to junta rule rages on.

Observers also say the planned poll cannot be free and fair under the present circumstances, with one analyst characterizing it as a mere "performance" aimed at justifying the junta's hold on power.

Allegations of voter fraud in the last election in November 2020 - won resoundingly by democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi's party - were the army's excuse for seizing power on February 1, 2021.

Though the claims were never substantiated, the generals arrested Suu Kyi and other top civilian leaders in a series of pre-dawn raids.

With the political opposition now decimated, and the junta buttressed by tacit backing from close allies Russia and China, the military is expected to hold a new election later this year - no later than August, according to the constitution.

Also readHRW Urge ASEAN Chair Indonesia to Pressure Myanmar on Violence

But with resistance raging from the hilly jungles of the borderlands to the plains of the army's traditional recruiting grounds, people across swathes of the country will be unlikely to vote - and run the risk of reprisals if they do.

Any junta-held poll will be "like a cart with only one wheel", a former civil servant in Yangon who has been on strike since the coup told AFP.

"There is no way it will bring any progress," he said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals.

In the jungle near the border with Thailand, Lin Lin, a member of one of the dozens of "People's Defence Force" groups battling the junta, vowed elections would have no bearing on their mission to oust the military from Myanmar's politics.

"We will hold on to our weapons until we get our elected government," he told AFP.

Also readASEAN Foreign Ministers Hold Emergency Talks on Myanmar

More than a million people have been displaced by violence since the coup, according to the UN, with the military accused of bombing and shelling civilians and committing war crimes as it struggles to crush resistance.

Last week UN human rights chief Volker Turk said the country faced a "catastrophic situation, which sees only deepening human suffering and rights violations on a daily basis".


Source AFP

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