Myanmar’s military coup leader said on Monday his junta would hold new elections as hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets. For three days protesters have taken to the streets of Myanmar against the military coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was speaking in a televised address, his first to the country since last Monday’s military takeover. He did not say when the election would be held, but repeated claims that last November’s poll, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), had been fraudulent.
In the capital Naypyitaw, crowds of protesters chanted anti-coup slogans and told police they should serve the people not the military, according to media and a live feed of events.
Police turned water cannon on protesters and warned that they might use live fire if the demonstrators did not disperse, but the protests ended without bloodshed.
Curfew imposed in Yangon
The U.S. Embassy said it had received reports that a curfew had been imposed in Yangon and Mandalay, the second-biggest city, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Monday that the United States supported the right of the people to assemble peacefully and that it was concerned about restrictions being imposed on public gatherings.
The generals had already tried to justify their takeover on the grounds of election fraud – rejected by the election committee – and had promised a new vote.
Min Aung Hlaing reiterated that position on Monday and said the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy,” different to previous eras of military rule.
He accused the election committee of using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to prevent fair campaigning and said it must be reformed.
“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. However he gave no time frame for fresh election but said a state of emergency would last one year.
Targeted sanctions against coup-makers
Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council has called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees. The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis at the behest of Britain and the European Union.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has said it is considering targeted sanctions. It said on Monday that it was “moving quickly” to form its response.
In a letter on Monday, a senior NLD member asked U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “use all available means…to ensure a swift reversal of the coup”.
A U.N. spokesman confirmed receipt of the letter. Guterres last week pledged to mobilize international pressure to make sure the coup failed.
In Yangon, a group of saffron-robed monks marched in the vanguard of protests with workers and students, flying multi-coloured Buddhist flags alongside red banners, the NLD’s colour.
The protests are the biggest since the “Saffron Revolution” led by monks in 2007, which led over subsequent years to the military’s gradual withdrawal from politics in Myanmar.