Myanmar junta chief seeking to ‘solidify’ grip on power: UN envoy

At least 962 people killed amid military’s crackdown on those seeking restoration of elected government

WASHINGTON (AA) – The leader of Myanmar’s military is “determined to solidify his grip on power” following a coup in February, special UN envoy for the country warned on Tuesday.

Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing’s recent efforts to accomplish that goal have included the formation of a caretaker government, the formal annulment of last November’s election results and declaring himself the country’s prime minister, according to Christine Schraner Burgener.

The envoy told reporters at a virtual news conference that she fears jailed State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party could soon be disbanded after it won a sweeping mandate in last year’s polls ahead of the military’s seizure of power.

“This is an attempt to promote legitimacy against a lack of international action taken,” said Schraner Burgener. “The situation is very difficult for the people. It is a difficult environment to live now in Myanmar. There is no freedom of speech, and I have still grave concerns about attacks against free press.”

In all, 962 people have been killed amid the military’s efforts to clamp down on pro-democracy activists and 7,084 have been arrested, according to UN estimates. More than 5,500 people remain behind bars, including more than 100 children.

Myanmar’s military ousted President Win Myint and Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, detaining them along with other senior members of the pre-coup ruling NLD party, citing “election fraud.” The military’s claims have been rejected as without merit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

The takeover has led to months of demonstrations and a mass civil disobedience movement, which has been met with brutal force.

Schraner Burgener said the conflict-ravaged country is now facing a third coronavirus wave “with entire families falling sick with COVID, with relatives desperately seeking, struggling to access treatment, emergency oxygen and other supplies while the prices have skyrocketed.”


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