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General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s junta chief, has taken the title of prime minister as head of a “caretaker” government, six months after the military seized power in a coup.
The military commander also promised to lift the country’s state of emergency and hold elections by 2023, in a move anti-coup activists said was meant to lend the regime a veneer of legitimacy internationally at a time when it was struggling with surging Covid-19 cases and stubborn popular resistance to its rule.
“In order to perform the country’s duties fast, easily and effectively, the State Administration Council has been reformed as caretaker government of Myanmar,” the state-run Myawaddy TV said on Sunday in comments reported by Reuters.
Anti-coup figures on Sunday dismissed the general’s promise to hold an election, citing Myanmar’s long history of past military regimes that resisted popular and international pressure to restore democracy and clung to power for years.
“The junta leader is now trying to fool the international community and the UN basically to gain legitimacy in the UN General Assembly,” said Thinzar Shunlei Yi, an opposition activist in hiding. “People in Myanmar who have experienced the 1962 and 1988 coups in the country know their ‘road maps’ well.”
Min Aung Hlaing toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and declared a year-long state of emergency on February 1, after claiming widespread election fraud in the previous November’s vote that re-elected her National League for Democracy for a second term by a wide margin. The regime officially annulled the election results last week.
Since the coup, however, the military has struggled to exert authority in swaths of the country where it has faced fierce resistance, initially from mass protests and more recently armed resistance groups that have attacked troops.
MPs from the NLD in hiding or exile have formed a parallel “national unity government” that is seeking international recognition.
A battle between the regime and coup opponents over diplomatic recognition is expected soon at the UN, where Myanmar’s ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun broke with the junta and pledged loyalty to the ousted government in a speech to the General Assembly in February.
The junta has tried to replace him, but the final decision on recognition lies with the General Assembly’s credentials committee, which is expected to take up the matter as soon as next month, when the UN body convenes.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to which Myanmar belongs, is trying to broker an end to the violence and political stand-off through a five-point consensus plan that is being viewed sceptically by coup opponents because of the bloc’s principle of non-interference in members’ affairs. Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday that he was willing to work with a future regional envoy from the bloc.
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