Junta ‘stalling for time’ with Myanmar election plan


Showing their displeasure: A file photo showing protesters preparing to burn the Asean flag as they take part in a flash mob demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. — AFP

The United States said Myanmar’s junta was playing for time with a two-year election timeframe as Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepared to encourage Asean to appoint an envoy.

Blinken is participating virtually in a week of talks involving foreign ministers of Asean, the latest bid by President Joe Biden’s administration to engage the region.

Ahead of the talks, Myanmar’s junta chief promised to hold elections and lift a state of emergency by August 2023, extending an initial timeline given when the military deposed elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1.

The announcement is “a call for Asean to have to step up its effort because it’s clear that the Burmese junta is just stalling for time and wants to keep prolonging the calendar to its own advantage”, said a senior US official, using Myanmar’s former name of Burma.

“All the more reason why Asean has to engage on this and live up and uphold the terms of the five-point consensus that Myanmar also signed up to.”

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing attended a meeting with Asean members on the crisis in April that led to the consensus statement that called for an immediate end to violence and a regional special envoy.

But the junta leader later distanced himself from the statement, no envoy has been appointed and more than 900 people have been reported killed in the six-month crackdown on dissent.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi is expected to meet Blinken in person in Washington this week, while Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier visited Indonesia and Thailand as well as Cambodia. — AFP

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