Almost six months after taking power in a coup d’état, Myanmar’s junta has canceled the results of last year’s elections, in which the party of former de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi secured enough seats in parliament to form a government.
The junta said on Monday that the November 2020 elections had not been “free and fair.” It said that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) “attempted to take state power from non-NLD parties and candidates by misusing COVID-19 restrictions.”
The junta seized power on February 1 over alleged fraud in the general elections and detained Suu Kyi and her associates. Since then, the country has been experiencing turmoil, with near-daily protests and a nationwide civil disobedience movement.
Suu Kyi faces a raft of charges ranging from bribery and flouting coronavirus restrictions to illegally possessing two-way radios and incitement to commit crimes against the state. Her defense team has rejected the allegations.
Over 900 people have been killed and about 200,000 have been forced to flee their homes in the unrest, according to United Nations (UN) figures.
The allegations of fraud have been dismissed by Myanmar’s former electoral commission. And a report on the 2020 polls by the Asian Network for Free Elections monitoring group said the elections were “by and large, representative of the will of the people.”
Meanwhile, the junta continues to arrest doctors treating COVID-19 patients voluntarily, as the nation struggles with a record wave of infections.
Rights groups call for ‘COVID ceasefire’
On Tuesday, the UN’s independent expert on the human rights situation in Myanmar called for a “COVID ceasefire” in the country. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said junta forces had engaged in at least 260 attacks against medical personnel and facilities, resulting in at least 18 deaths.
Andrews urged the UN Security Council “to use all the tools of the UN,” including adopting resolutions, to demand that Myanmar’s military rulers stop all attacks, particularly against healthcare professionals.
He warned, “Too many in Myanmar have needlessly perished and too many more will die without action by the United Nations.”
According to the latest count, the country had reported some 279,000 COVID-19 cases and at least 7,845 deaths. Analysts, however, say the true toll is probably much higher.