Myanmar's military ruler Min Aung Hlaing has promised to hold elections in two years’ time, extending the state of emergency that was imposed after the civilian government was overthrown in a military coup six months ago.
The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, and launched a bloody crackdown on dissent which has left more than 900 people dead.
"We will accomplish the provisions of the state of emergency by August 2023,” the junta leader said in a televised address on Sunday. “I pledge to hold multiparty elections without fail.”
The general’s announcement would place Myanmar under military rule for nearly two and a half years – instead of the initial one year that the junta had promised days after the February 1 coup.
The junta has consolidated its position through a lethal crackdown on street protests, which have continued in a limited form to this day.
The junta leader also said that the military would cooperate with any special envoy appointed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework including the dialogue with the ASEAN Special Envoy in Myanmar.”
ASEAN foreign ministers are set to meet on Monday to finalize the appointment of a special envoy, who will be tasked with ending the turmoil and promoting dialogue between the junta and its opponents.
The United Nations, China and the United States, among others, have opted in favor of ASEAN as the best mediator to find a solution for the crisis in Myanmar, which is itself a member of the group.
In the meantime, protests continued in Myanmar on Sunday, albeit in smaller numbers compared to the nationwide mass protests and strikes that erupted in the aftermath of the coup.
Protesters lit flares at a protest rally in the commercial capital Yangon, while more pro-democracy demonstrators held banners reading “strength for the revolution” in the northern town of Kale.
Since the junta seized power, the country’s economy has collapsed, triggering a new exodus of refugees fleeing from economic hardships, worsened by the deadly army crackdown and a surge in coronavirus infections.