February 16, 2021
Myanmar Military Promises New Elections As Protests Against Coup Continue

Myanmar's military junta promised on Tuesday that it would hold a new election following its government takeover. The move likely aims to appease the tens of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets since the army seized power in the February 1 coup d'état.

According to Reuters, the military both denied that it had staged a coup and announced it would be willing to hold a new election to decide the leader of the Asian nation.

"Our objective is to hold an election and hand power to the winning party," Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, said in the junta's first news conference since overthrowing the government.

"We guarantee... that the election will be held," he added during the nearly two-hour news conference.

However, the statements promoting democracy appeared to be undermined after police filed an additional charge against former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, alleging that she was found in possession of illegal walkie-talkies. Suu Kyi, along with other members of her party, has been in custody since February 1. She has contested any accusations of wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, the military has denied that Suu Kyi and the others are currently being forcibly detained, and has claimed that the lawmakers are being kept in their homes for security reasons.

In addition, the military has not given a date for a new election, with Zaw Min Tun offering just a promise that the army would not be in control for long. The current state of emergency that allowed the junta to seize power lasts for one year.

People protest in Myanmar.
Getty Images | Hkun Lat

Ironically, the press conference was broadcast over Facebook, even though the internet platform had previously been temporarily banned after civilians used it to organize protests against the military. As covered by The Inquisitr, the country has recently been experiencing sporadic internet blackouts, with online usage falling to around 16 percent of ordinary levels at some points.

It is not the first time that the Myanmar government has resorted to cutting off online access, with one region of the country deprived of the internet from June 2019 to this February. Despite a lack of consistent web access, thousands of protesters still have taken to the streets over the past two weeks.

Several international agencies released statements after reports suggested that police had been violent with the protesters.

The United Nations' special envoy "has reinforced that the right of peaceful assembly must fully be respected and that demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals," said U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.

"She has conveyed to the Myanmar military that the world is watching closely, and any form of heavy-handed response is likely to have severe consequences," Haq added, per Al Jazeera.