Myanmar army leader touts election plan on Independence Day

Jan 3, 2023, 9:19 AM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 3:55 am
Myanmar's Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military council, inspects officers during a cer...

Myanmar's Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military council, inspects officers during a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of Independence Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday described plans for an election later this year and called for national unity in a speech as he led a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of independence from Britain. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

(AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s ruling military leader pardoned over 7,000 prisoners, including some political detainees, and detailed plans for an election later this year during a ceremony Wednesday marking the 75th anniversary of independence from Britain.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing urged other nations and international organizations, as well as his country’s own people, to support “the genuine, discipline-flourishing multiparty democratic system,” a concept the ruling military has defined as its goal since it ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

The army’s takeover reversed nearly a decade of progress toward democracy after 50 years of military rule.

The plan for a general election is widely seen as an attempt to normalize the military’s seizure of power through the ballot box and to deliver a result that ensures the generals retain control. The military will control the entire process and has spent the past two years enfeebling any credible opposition.

There was no sign the pardoning of 7,012 prisoners, along with a partial commutation of the sentences of other inmates not convicted of serious crimes, included Suu Kyi. She has been held virtually incommunicado by the military since it seized power.

The 77-year-old Suu Kyi is serving 33 years imprisonment after being convicted of a series of politically tinged prosecutions brought by the military. They include illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, violating coronavirus restrictions, breaching the official secrets act, sedition, election fraud and corruption.

Her supporters and independent analysts say the cases against her are an attempt to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power while keeping her from taking part in the election that the military has said would take place by August this year.

At Insein Prison in Yangon – Myanmar’s most notorious – relatives thronged the gates and celebrated as loved ones were driven out of the compound on buses.

Asked how he felt about his release, a former information officer for Suu Kyi’s political party, Htin Lin Oo, was restrained in his response. He was arrested on the morning of of the army takeover and in February last year sentenced to three years in prison for incitement.

“What really matters is whether it’s a real freedom or not. I want a real kind of freedom,” he said. “I don’t just want to be released from jail but I also want freedom for all of my life, all of my hopes, my family and all the new generations.”

The first real move toward elections could occur at the end of this month, when the latest six-month extension of a state of emergency declared by the military is completed.

“Upon accomplishing the provisions of the state of emergency, free and fair elections will be held in line with the 2008 constitution, and further work will be undertaken to hand over state duties to the winning party in accordance with the democratic standards,” Min Aung Hlaing said in his speech in the capital, Naypyitaw, where he also presided over a large-scale parade.

The military justified its takeover by claiming massive fraud in the 2020 election, though independent election observers did not find any major irregularities.

Military units and civil servants marched in formation close to the grandiose parliament complex while fighter jets, bombers and helicopters flew overhead.

Although not officially outlawed, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has effectively been broken up, its leaders and many members either jailed or in hiding. All forms of dissent are suppressed by security forces, sometimes with lethal force.

The party won a second successive landslide victory in the 2020 general election, a result that triggered its overthrow by the military the following year. The military action led to peaceful nationwide protests that security forces quashed, triggering armed resistance that some U.N. experts characterize as civil war.

Myanmar’s history even before the 2021 takeover was marked by decades of armed conflict between the central government and ethnic minorities seeking greater autonomy, mostly in border regions.

That conflict still rages through most of the country, and Min Aung Hlaing stressed that “the cessation of internal armed conflicts to ensure national solidarity and peace, which are absolute necessities for our country and strenuous efforts, are being made towards that end.”

Min Aung Hlaing’s government’s toppling of democracy and fierce repression of all opposition have also made it a pariah state, and many countries have slapped political and economic sanctions against the ruling generals.

“It is seen that some organizations and countries had meddled in the internal affairs of Myanmar. However, we have decided to stand firm globally, while adhering to our foreign policy in order to safeguard the sovereignty, security and interests of our nation,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
19 hours ago
Nathan Chasing Horse stands in court. Monday, Feb. 6, 2023, in North Las Vegas, Nev. Nathan Chasing...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor charged in 2018 rape in PNW

Canadian police confirmed Tuesday they are pursuing a criminal case against a former "Dances With Wolves" actor who was arrested last week and charged in Nevada with sexually abusing and trafficking Indigenous women and girls.
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Tiny California mouse wins Guinness award for longevity

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A tiny California mouse now has a big title after winning a Guinness World record for longevity. A Pacific pocket mouse named Pat — after “Star Trek” actor Patrick Stewart — received the Guinness approval Wednesday as the oldest living mouse in human care at the ripe age of 9 years […]
19 hours ago
This shows a Chinese Dahua brand security camera in Sydney, Australia, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. Aust...
Associated Press

Australian Defense Department to remove Chinese-made cameras

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Defense Department will remove surveillance cameras made by Chinese Communist Party-linked companies from its buildings, the government said Thursday after the U.S. and Britain made similar moves. The Australian newspaper reported Thursday that at least 913 cameras, intercoms, electronic entry systems and video recorders developed and manufactured by Chinese companies […]
19 hours ago
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, ack...
Associated Press

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un presides over big military parade

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought his young daughter to a huge military parade showing off the latest hardware of his fast-growing nuclear arsenal, including intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the United States, state media said Thursday. North Korean photos of Wednesday night’s parade in the capital, Pyongyang, […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Filmmaker Ken Burns walks with inmate Rahsaan Thomas at San Quentin State Prison in San Quen...
Associated Press

‘Ear Hustle’ podcast co-host is free from San Quentin prison

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A co-host of “Ear Hustle,” the Pulitzer Prize-nominated podcast produced behind bars, was released from San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday, a year after California Gov. Gavin Newsom commuted his sentence. Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, 52, left the lockup near San Francisco and was greeted by his fellow podcast co-hosts Walter […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Myanmar army leader touts election plan on Independence Day