Myanmar junta hints at further election delay

Myanmar's military chief Min Aung Hlaing stands in a car as he oversees a military display at a parade ground to mark the country's Independence Day in Naypyidaw on January 4, 2023. Photo by AFP

Yangon, Myanmar​ -- Myanmar will hold a national census late next year, state media reported Friday, hinting at another delay in elections the junta has pledged to hold to end the crisis sparked by its coup.

The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since the army's power grab in 2021, with a subsequent crackdown on dissent sparking fighting between military and anti-coup forces across swathes of the nation.

The "census will be taken simultaneously throughout the country" from October 1-15, 2024, immigration and population minister U Myint Kyaing was reported as saying by the Global New Light of Myanmar.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had previously said a national census would be required to ensure voting lists in the country of some 54 million were "accurate", suggesting a census would precede any election.

He also said fresh polls could only be held when the country was "stable".

In February, the junta announced a six-month extension to a two-year state of emergency, delaying elections it said it would hold by August.

The military justified its February 2021 power grab with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in 2020 elections that the party of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi won in a landslide.

Observers say any fresh poll could not be free and fair under the present circumstances.

The United States maintains that any junta-held poll would be a "sham", while Russia -- a close ally and arms supplier of the military -- has said it would support elections.

Two years after the coup, the situation in Myanmar is a "festering catastrophe", United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said last week, adding that the military was operating with "complete impunity".

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the bloody impasse led by the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional bloc have made little headway, with the military's generals refusing to engage with opponents.

The junta in December wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi, jailing its longtime enemy for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have condemned as a sham.

© Agence France-Presse

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